The superantigens staphylococcal enterotoxin A and E (SEA and SEE) can activate a large number of T-cells. SEA and SEE have approximately 80% sequence identity but show some differences in their biological function. Here, the two superantigens and analogues were characterized biophysically. SEE was shown to have a substantially higher thermal stability than SEA. Both SEA and SEE were thermally stabilized by 0.1 mM Zn2+ compared with Zn2+- reduced conditions achieved using 1 mM EDTA or specific replacements that affect Zn2+ coordination. The higher stability of SEE was only partly caused by the T-cell receptor (TCR) binding regions, whereas regions in the vicinity of the major histocompatibility complex class II binding sites affected the stability to a greater extent. SEE exhibited a biphasic denaturation between pH 5.0-6.5, influenced by residues in the TCR binding regions. Interestingly, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, isoelectric focusing, and circular dichroism analysis indicated that conformational changes had occurred in the SEA/E chimerical constructs relative to SEA and SEE. Thus, it is proposed that the Zn2+ binding site is very important for the stability and potency of SEA and SEE, whereas residues in the TCR binding site have a substantial influence on the molecular conformation to control specificity and function.