The contribution of anergy to silencing of autoreactive B cells in physiologic settings is unknown. By comparing anergic and nonanergic immunoglobulin-transgenic mouse strains, we defined a set of surface markers that were used for presumptive identification of an anergic B cell cohort within a normal repertoire. Like anergic transgenic B cells, these physiologic anergic cells exhibited high basal intracellular free calcium and did not mobilize calcium, initiate tyrosine phosphorylation, proliferate, upregulate activation markers, or mount an immune response upon antigen-receptor stimulation. Autoreactive B cells were overrepresented in this cohort. On the basis of the frequency and lifespan of these cells, it appears that as many as 50% of newly produced B cells are destined to become anergic. In conclusion, our findings indicate that anergy is probably the primary mechanism by which autoreactive B cells are silenced. Thus maintenance of the unresponsiveness of anergic cells is critical for prevention of autoimmunity.