IgG4 and IgE isotypes contribute marginally to the pool of circulating antibodies in healthy individuals, but are elevated during atopic diseases and particularly upon helminth infections. To examine whether the high levels of these isotypes in circulation are reflected in a higher capacity of PBMC to produce IgG4 and IgE, we examined cells from patients infected with filarial nematodes that exhibit high levels of IgG4 and IgE. Indeed, IgG4 production by PBMC correlated strongly with plasma levels of IgG4 (r = 0·534, P = 0·002), but such correlation was not found for IgE. The replacement of CD19+ cells from PBMC by IgD+ cells abrogated the high capacity of PBMC to make IgG4. This indicates that an altered B cell compartment accounts for the high IgG4-producing capacity of the PBMC. The high production of IgG4 in vitro was not dependent on IL-4 and IL-13, as neutralizing antibodies to these cytokines did not inhibit IgG4. However, IgE release by PBMC was dependent on IL-4 and IL-13. Antifilarial IgG4 was detected in culture supernatants from filarial patients and its production was independent of IL-4 and IL-13. These results demonstrate that in individuals with elevated IgG4, the B cell compartment in PBMC carries cells that are already committed to IgG4 production and are independent of IL-4 and IL-13.