The strong association of acute guttate psoriasis and streptococcal throat infection has suggested a role for streptococcal antigens in the pathogenesis of psoriasis. We have reported that psoriatic peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) showed significantly lower responses to cytoplasmic membrane-associated protein (CAP) isolated from group A beta-hemolytic streptococci, a kind of streptococcal superantigen. The objectives were to evaluate the abnormal cytokine production by psoriatic PBMCs to streptococcal superantigen, CAP. We compared the production of four different cytokines, i.e. IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, and IFN-gamma, by PBMCs between psoriatic patients and healthy controls after stimulation with CAP or two different staphylococcal superantigens, staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA) or E (SEE). When PBMCs were stimulated with CAP, the production of IL-10 was significantly lower by psoriatic PBMCs than by those from healthy controls, whereas those of IL-4, IL-5, or IFN-gamma were not different between the two groups. Such a significant decrease in IL-10 production by psoriatic PBMCs was not observed when they were stimulated with staphylococcal superantigens. Flow cytometric analysis of intracytoplasmic IL-10 demonstrated defective IL-10 production by psoriatic PBMCs in both CD3+ T cells and CD14+ monocytes. There was a significant positive correlation between IFN-gamma production by PBMCs and the proliferation of Vbeta8+ T cells preferentially stimulated by CAP. These data demonstrating the defective IL-10 production by psoriatic PBMCs stimulated with streptococcal superantigen seem to explain why only psoriatic patients evolve sustained and Th-1 deviated skin lesions after streptococcal upper respiratory infection.