Mice developed massive splenomegaly and polyclonal hypergammaglobulinemia within 2 days after intravenous injection of a phosphorothioate oligomer that is antisense to a portion of the rev region of the HIV-1 genome. Histologic examination of spleens from injected animals showed marked expansion of a uniform-appearing population of small lymphocytes and many mitoses. Spleen mononuclear cells (SMNCs) from injected animals showed approximately a 10-fold-increased uptake of [3H]thymidine and production of IgM and IgG. Flow cytometry analysis indicated that the responding cells were predominantly B-lymphocytes. The anti-rev oligomer also was mitogenic in vitro and stimulated immunoglobulin production by normal mouse SMNCs and human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Similar immunologic effects were observed with an anti-rev 21-mer phosphorothioate, truncated at the 3' end, but not with a 20-mer human p53 antisense phosphorothioate or a 28-mer anti-rev phosphodiester. These observations are consistent with the possibility that DNA sequences homologous to the rev gene participate in the regulation of mammalian lymphocyte activation, proliferation and maturation.