We have previously described that the administration of an anti-mu mAb to adult rats results in the total depletion of circulating IgM. In the present study we analyzed the cellular mechanisms involved in the depletion of circulating IgM by the administration of an anti-mu mAb to adult rats. Administration of an anti-mu mAb to adult rats led to the cross-linking and internalization of membrane IgM (mIgM) but not mIgD on the surface of B cells. This correlated with the depletion in spleen and bone marrow of immature and short-lived Thy-1+ CD45RB+ B cells and with the specific depletion of the number of IgM but not IgA-, IgG1-, IgG2a-, and IgG2b-secreting cells in the spleen, which paralleled the depletion of circulating IgM but not IgA, IgG1, IgG2a, and IgG2b. In contrast to the other IgG subclasses, IgG2c-secreting cells as well as circulating IgG2c were increased by 10-fold in anti-mu-treated rats as compared with controls. Finally, anti-mu-treated rats showed an inhibition in the generation of primary thymus-dependent as well as thymus-independent Ab responses as compared with controls. In conclusion, the data presented suggests that anti-mu administration in adult rats results in the early arrest of B cell differentiation in the bone marrow, which causes the down-regulation of IgM production. Furthermore, anti-mu mAb administration directly or indirectly activates a particular subset of mature B cells, which differentiates into IgG2c-secreting cells.