Induction of IgE synthesis in human B cells requires two signals. The first signal is delivered by the cytokine IL-4. The second signal activates B cells and is delivered by T cells, EBV infection, or engagement of the B cell-specific Ag CD40. Hydrocortisone (HC) has recently been shown to synergize with IL-4 to induce IgE synthesis in CD5+ chronic lymphocytic leukemia B cells. We show herein that a combination of HC and rIL-4 induces IgE synthesis in highly purified normal peripheral blood B cells. HC and IL-4 acted directly on B cells, because T cells and monocytes were not required for IgE synthesis. IgE induction was shown to occur in surface IgE- B cells isolated by cell sorting. These results suggest that IgE synthesis results from isotype switching, rather than from expansion of a precommitted B cell population. Furthermore, IgE synthesis was induced in sorted CD5- B cells, indicating that the ability to produce IgE in response to HC and IL-4 is not constrained by CD5 expression. Endogenous IL-6 was critical for induction of IgE synthesis by HC and IL-4, because an anti-IL-6 antibody strongly inhibited IgE production. These data suggest that hormones may play an important role in the regulation of IgE synthesis.

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