Fresh and transformed human B lineage cells were found to be sensitive to the cytotoxic action of Shiga-like toxin (SLT), a bacterial cytotoxin. The toxin was specifically bound by the glycolipids globotriosylceramide and galabiosylceramide expressed on the surface of sensitive cells. Mutant Daudi cells selected for resistance to SLT cytotoxicity (SLTR20) were deficient in SLT-binding glycolipids and failed to bind SLT to their surface, suggesting a role for these glycolipids in the mediation of SLT cytotoxicity. Of a number of normal and transformed lymphoid and myeloid cells screened for SLT sensitivity, only B lymphoid cells were susceptible to SLT action. Moreover, B lymphoid cells were the only cells expressing the SLT binding glycolipids. In vitro B cell activation studies with Epstein-Barr virus and pokeweed mitogen both indicated that the vast majority of SLT-sensitive B cells belong to the IgG and IgA committed subset, whereas most IgM and IgM/D producing cells were resistant to SLT toxicity. The selective elimination of IgG and IgA committed cells may explain the production of only IgM class anti-SLT antibodies in Shigella-infected humans leading to the failure of long-term immunity to dysenteric disease.