N,N'-Diacetylputrescine (tetramethylenebisacetamide [TMBA]) and its six carbon analog, hexamethylenebisacetamide (HMBA), inhibited the proliferative response of human B lymphocytes to anti-mu and formalinized Cowan I strain Staphylococcal aureus (SAC) stimulation. In contrast, B cell growth factor-stimulated proliferation of human B cells was minimally inhibited by TMBA or HMBA. The antiproliferative effect of these diamine derivatives was specific for anti-mu (or SAC) activation of normal B cells, because the proliferation of PHA-stimulated human T cells and transformed human B cells was not affected by the presence of TMBA or HMBA. The inhibitory effect of diacetyl diamines on anti-mu (or SAC)-induced B cell activation was dose dependent and persisted after removal of the diamine derivatives from the culture media. These studies show that diacetylated derivatives of polyamines modulate human B cell activation in vitro by specific abrogation of anti-mu or SAC activation.