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In order to determine which drug may be more effective in clinical abnormalities associated with polyclonal B lymphocyte activation, we compared the in vitro effects of CsA and rapamycin on proliferation or differentiation of preactivated B cells.For that purpose, highly purified B lymphocytes were preactivated in the presence of formalinized Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and then recultured in the presence or in the absence of either rIL-2, rIL-6, or combination of rIL-2 and rIL-6. After 48 hr in culture, S. aureus bacteria upregulated significantly the binding of phycoerythrin-conjugated IL-2 and IL-6, respectively, by purified B lymphocytes, indicating generation and/ or upregulation of receptors for these cytokines. Such preactivated B lymphocytes proliferated in response to optimal concentrations of rIL-2, whereas the addition of rIL-6 to preactivated cells was always accompanied by a decrease of the proliferation rate.CsA upregulated cell proliferation when it was added in the second culture period in the presence or in the absence of rIL-6, whereas rapamycin had no effect in these cases. A combination of rIL-2 plus rIL-6 upregulated significantly the proliferative responses of preactivated B cells. In such cultures both CsA and rapamycin had an inhibitory effect on the proliferative responses.IgM production was unaffected by the addition of rlL-6 to cultures of preactivated B cells, whereas addition of rIL-2 and of the IL-2/IL-6 combination enhanced considerably IgM production. Irrespective of cytokines added, CsA upregulated the production of IgM. In contrast, rapamycin inhibited IgM production in all cases.Our results indicate that, in this experimental system, rapamycin is an effective immunosuppressive agent and its use, at least in vitro, is not accompanied by an upregulation of either the proliferation or differentiation of B lymphocytes.