Exfoliative toxin A (ETA) is known to be a causative agent of staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS). Although relatively little is known about exactly how the exfoliative toxins (ETs) cause SSSS, much has been discovered recently that may help elucidate the mechanism(s) by which ETA exhibits activities such as lymphocyte mitogenicity and epidermolytic activity. Here, we have shown that highly purified ETA does have T lymphocyte mitogenic activity in that wild-type ETA induced T cell proliferation whereas several single amino acid mutants lacked significant activity. Neither wild- type ETA nor any single amino acid mutants were proteolytic for a casein substrate, yet esterase activity was detected in wild-type ETA and several mutants, but eliminated in other mutants. A mutation in aa 164 (Asp to Ala) showed a 9-fold increase in esterase activity as well. Finally, we correlated esterase activity with epidermolytic activity. All mutants that lost esterase activity also lost epidermolytic activity. Conversely, mutants that retained esterase activity also retained exfoliative activity, implicating serine protease or serine protease-like activity in the causation of SSSS. Moreover, the mutants that displayed markedly reduced T cell superantigenic activity retained their epidermolytic activity (although some of these mutants required higher doses of toxin to cause disease), which suggests an ancillary role for this activity in SSSS causation.