Transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF beta 1) has important effects on expression of the IgA isotype. TGF beta 1 alone, or in combination with IL-5 or IL-2 increases IgA secretion by populations of LPS-activated surface IgA negative (sIgA-) spleen B cells, while concurrently decreasing IgM and IgG secretion. The present study demonstrates the activity of TGF beta 1 as an IgA isotype switch factor at the clonal level. Stimulation of LPS-activated sIgA- spleen B cell populations with TGF beta 1, or a combination of TGF beta 1 and IL-2, resulted in a significant increase in total numbers of IgA secreting cells, and this increase ultimately was paralleled by an increase in total IgA secretion. Using limiting dilution analysis, TGF beta 1 was shown to increase the frequency of IgA secreting B cell clones, by approximately 20-fold. This was not accompanied by increased numbers of IgA secreting cells/clone. In contrast, IL-2 does not have activity as an IgA switch factor, but does increase IgA production by B cells already committed to secrete that isotype. Cell cycle inhibitors such as thymidine and hydroxyurea also selectively increased numbers of IgA secreting cells and total IgA secretion among populations of LPS-activated sIgA- spleen B cells. This suggests the IgA enhancing activity of TGF beta 1 may, in part, be related to its ability to inhibit cell growth.