Although IL-2 infusion enhances cell-mediated cytotoxicity in patients with neoplastic disease, administration is paradoxically associated with a modest fall in total serum IgG and an increased risk of infection. We now show that the adverse effects of IL-2 infusion on the humoral immune system are substantial. Although IL-2 induces the B cell growth and differentiating factors IL-4 and IL-6, infusion abrogates primary antibody responses entirely and reduces secondary antibody responses 50-fold following antigen challenge. There is no evidence of the generation of cells with suppressive activity on B cells but IL-2 increases the ratio of circulating virgin:memory cells. These results may help to explain the increased rate of bacterial infection in patients receiving IL-2. As IL-2 plays a central role in the generation of an immune response, the finding that it is also sufficiently immunosuppressive to inhibit primary- and secondary-type antibody responses suggests that exploration of the underlying mechanisms may provide insights into immune system homeostasis and may offer new approaches to therapeutic immunosuppression.