The exact role of B cells in antigen presentation to naive T cells in vivo is presently not known. Here, we demonstrate the ability of a B cell subset consisting of B7-2pos-B cells to prime autoreactive T cells in B cell-deficient mice. In contrast, B cell-deficient mice are unable to mount a similar initiation and expansion of the autoimmune response. The expression of the B7-2 costimulatory molecule as well as the specificity to a self-antigen, either murine cytochrome c or murine ribonucleoproteins (the target of autoimmunity in SLE), enabled B cells as antigen-presenting cells to induce naive lymph node T cells to proliferate and to express IFN-gamma, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10 cytokine mRNAs. In contrast, neither adoptively transferred B7-2neg-B cells nor nonspecific B7-2pos-B cells were able to activate naive T cells. In addition, anti-B7-2 treatment prevented the in vivo expression of the IL-4, IL-5, and IFN-gamma cytokine mRNA responses. Our results suggest a major role of autoantigen-specific B7-2pos-B cells in breaking T cell tolerance to self-antigen.