Interleukin-10 (IL-10) has various effects on B cell immunoglobulin (Ig) production. Indirect evidence suggests that IL-10 functions as a switch factor for IgG production. In this study, the switch deleted Ig gene DNA was isolated and characterized, as direct evidence that IL-10 induced isotype switching in human B cells. In addition, 16 chimeric Ig fragments were isolated, representing deleted DNA generated by in vitro isotype switching from mu to gamma in human B cells, following stimulation with IL-10 and anti-CD40 monoclonal antibodies (CD40 mAb). These clones consisted solely of S gamma 1/S mu and S gamma 3/S mu chimeric switch circular DNAs, no S gamma 2/S mu or S gamma 4/S mu switch DNA was observed. In addition, IL-10 alone induced only gamma 1 and gamma 3 germ-line mRNA transcripts, as determined by restriction digestion of the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction products. Three modes of mu-gamma 3 isotype switching were detected: (1) direct switching; (2) internal deletion of S mu proceeding mu to gamma 3 switching; and (3) internal deletion of S gamma 3 proceeding mu to gamma 3 switching. These results directly demonstrate that gamma 1 and gamma 3 switching in human B cells is specifically induced by IL-10 in the presence of CD40 mAb.