B lymphocytes are divided into two subpopulations, B1 and B2 cells based on expression of the T cell-associated protein CD5. Natural B1 cells are further divided into B1a cells that express CD5 on their membrane and B1b cells that do not but share most other biological characteristics of B1a cells. Recent studies from our laboratory have revealed, in humans, the existence of two alternative isoforms of the CD5 protein. A cell surface CD5 isoform which uses exon 1A (E1A) of the gene in B1a cells, and an intracellular isoform which uses exon 1B (E1B) mainly in human B1b cells. Indeed, the protein isoform encoded by transcripts containing E1B lack the leader peptide and is, thus, retained in the cytoplasm of B cells. The restriction of interleukin (IL)-10 to B1 lymphocytes in the mouse raises the possibility that the human CD5-E1B-expressing B cells produce IL-10. This prediction was confirmed in the CD5 negative Jok-1 B cells transfected with cDNA for either isoforms resulted in high level IL-10 production. Our data indicate that E1B-CD5-expressing B cells have the capacity to interfere with the immune response through their ability to produce high levels of IL-10.