Cytokine production by B cells is important for multiple aspects of immunity. B cell-derived cytokines, including lymphotoxin, are essential for the ontogenesis, homeostasis and activation of secondary lymphoid organs, as well as for the development of tertiary lymphoid tissues at ectopic sites. Other B cell-derived cytokines, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), interferon-γ and tumour necrosis factor, influence the development of effector and memory CD4(+) T cell responses. Finally, B cells can regulate inflammatory immune responses, primarily through their provision of IL-10 and IL-35. This Review summarizes these various roles of cytokine-producing B cells in immunity and discusses the rational for targeting these cells in the clinic.