To determine whether B7 signals are associated with atopic responses in man, we assayed CD80 and CD86 expression on B cells and monocytes from atopic patients and controls. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 10 patients with perennial allergic rhinitis and from 10 normal subjects were cultured in the presence or absence of house-dust-mite antigen, and B cells and monocytes were assayed for expression of CD80 and CD86 by flow cytometry. CD86 on B cells was significantly and selectively upregulated in all atopic subjects, but not in normal subjects, whereas CD80 expression was not altered in B cells from the atopic subjects or controls. In contrast, both CD80 and CD86 were upregulated in monocytes from the atopic subjects as well as the controls. However, CD86 upregulation was significantly higher in the atopic subjects than in controls. Our results seem to suggest that selective upregulation of CD86 on B cells by a challenging antigen may play a critical role in the development of Th2 cells in patients with atopic disease.