We have characterized circular DNA in mouse splenocytes treated with the mitogen lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and various cytokines, including transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) and interleukin 4 (IL-4). Using probes of immunoglobulin heavy chain constant genes (CH), excision products of class switch recombination were identified. The majority of the clones contained the 3' portion of the switch mu (S mu) region and the 5' portion of other switch regions. Some clones contained 3'-S gamma sequences instead of 3'-S mu. This indicates that isotype switching may occur not only from C mu, but also from one of the C gamma genes to other CH genes further down-stream. In the presence of LPS, the cytokine TGF-beta enhanced the detection of 5'-S alpha-positive clones, while the lymphokine IL-4 enhanced 5'-S gamma 1 positives. The data support the notion that TGF-beta and IL-4 can direct isotype-specific class switching.