Dogma holds that plasma cells, as opposed to B cells, cannot bind antigen because they have switched from expression of membrane-bound immunoglobulins (Ig) that constitute the B-cell receptor (BCR) to production of the secreted form of immunoglobulins. Here we compare the phenotypical and functional attributes of plasma cells generated by the T-cell-dependent and T-cell-independent forms of the hapten NP. We show that the nature of the secreted Ig isotype, rather than the chemical structure of the immunizing antigen, defines two functionally distinct populations of plasma cells. Fully mature IgM-expressing plasma cells resident in the bone marrow retain expression of a functional BCR, whereas their IgG+ counterparts do not. Antigen boost modifies the gene expression profile of IgM+ plasma cells and initiates a cytokine production program, characterized by upregulation of CCL5 and IL-10. Our results demonstrate that IgM-expressing plasma cells can sense antigen and acquire competence for cytokine production upon antigenic challenge.