Dimerization of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) plays an important role in the MHC biological function. Mycoplasma arthritidis-derived mitogen (MAM) is a superantigen that can activate large fractions of T cells bearing specific T cell receptor Vbeta elements. Here we have used structural, sedimentation, and surface plasmon resonance detection approaches to investigate the molecular interactions between MAM and the class II MHC molecule HLA-DR1 in the context of a hemagglutinin peptide-(306-318) (HA). Our results revealed that zinc ion can efficiently induce the dimerization of the HLA-DR1/HA complex. Because the crystal structure of the MAM/HLA-DR1/hemagglutinin complex in the presence of EDTA is nearly identical to the structure of the complex crystallized in the presence of zinc ion, Zn(2+) is evidently not directly involved in the binding between MAM and HLA-DR1. Sedimentation and surface plasmon resonance studies further revealed that MAM binds the HLA-DR1/HA complex with high affinity in a 1:1 stoichiometry, in the absence of Zn(2+). However, in the presence of Zn(2+), a dimerized MAM/HLA-DR1/HA complex can arise through the Zn(2+)-induced DR1 dimer. In the presence of Zn(2+), cooperative binding of MAM to the DR1 dimer was also observed.