Deoxyspergualin (DSG), an analogue of spermidin, is a potent immunosuppressive drug with an action quite distinct from that of cyclosporin, rapamycin, or FK506. In this study we investigated the effect of DSG and methyldeoxyspergualin (MeDSG) on the proliferation and differentiation of human B cells stimulated with anti-CD40 MoAb. Highly purified B cells obtained from tonsillar samples were used as target cells. Both agents inhibited the proliferative response of anti-CD40-stimulated B cells in the absence and presence of IL-4, IL-2 or IL-10 in a dose-dependent manner. This inhibitory effect differed markedly among cell populations based on surface IgD expression: strong inhibition of sIgD+ B cells but little inhibition of sIgD- B cells. The drugs also suppressed the production of IgG, IgM and IgA by unfractionated B cells, which suggests that DSG acts against post-switch (sIgD-) B cells. Although the drugs suppressed immunoglobulin synthesis by both sIgD+ and sIgD- B cells, the effect was more marked in the sIgD+ B cells. Analysis of the subclass of IgG secreted by sIgD+ B cells revealed a decline in IgG1 and IgG3 in the presence of DSG. These results suggest that DSG preferentially inhibits the growth and maturation of sIgD+ naive B cells.