When stimulated with antigen, B cells are influenced by T cells to proliferate and differentiate into antibody-forming cells. Since it was reported that soluble factors could replace certain functions of helper T cells in the antibody response, several different kinds of lymphokines and monokines have been reported in B-cell growth and differentiation. Among these, human B-cell differentiation factor (BCDF or BSF-2) has been shown to induce the final maturation of B cells into immunoglobulin-secreting cells. BSF-2 was purified to homogeneity and its partial NH2-terminal amino-acid sequence was determined. These studies indicated that BSF-2 is functionally and structurally unlike other known proteins. Here, we report the molecular cloning, structural analysis and functional expression of the cDNA encoding human BSF-2. The primary sequence of BSF-2 deduced from the cDNA reveals that BSF-2 is a novel interleukin consisting of 184 amino acids.