Previous studies have indicated that upon in vitro activation with mitogenic lectins, human peripheral blood T lymphocytes express receptors for the steroid hormone 1 alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3(1,25(OH)2D3). Furthermore, the hormone can inhibit interleukin 2 production by the activated cells. In this investigation, we report that human peripheral B lymphocytes activated in vitro with the B lymphotropic Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) also express 1,25(OH)2D3 receptor-like macromolecules. These receptors are localized in the cell nucleus and exhibit properties similar to those found in classical target tissues for 1,25(OH)2D3. They sediment on sucrose gradients at 3.3 S, display a dissociation constant (Kd) of 4 X 10(-10) M, and can bind to DNA. In addition to the 1,25(OH)2D3 receptors, however, EBV-activated lymphocytes express a second class of 1,25(OH)2D3-binding proteins that appear to occur mainly in the cell cytosol and exhibit distinct biochemical properties from the receptor, including higher sedimentation coefficients (3.7 S to 4 S) and the lack of ability to bind to DNA. The addition of 1,25(OH)2D3 to cultures of EBV-infected cells inhibited the production of IgM and IgG by the B cells. The vitamin D3 analog 24,25(OH)2D3 did not inhibit Ig production, thus suggesting that the effect is probably mediated through the high affinity receptor macromolecule localized in the nucleus. Because the EBV-induced Ig production is independent of T cell participation, the data also suggest that the effects of 1,25(OH)2D3 are exerted directly on the B cell. The present results add to the evidence of the importance of 1,25(OH)2D3 as an immunoregulatory hormone.