Naive and memory B cells were isolated from human tonsils and examined for expression of APO-1/Fas and for their sensitivity to the APO-1-dependent apoptosis. APO-1 was found to be constitutively expressed on memory but not on naive B cells. The susceptibility of both cell types to the APO-1 apoptotic pathway was acquired upon CD40 triggering and was correlated with increased expression of the APO-1 receptor. Both naive and memory B cells were protected from the APO-1-mediated death signal after dual ligation of the Ag receptor adn CD40. Our findings suggest that the APO-1 pathway controls the specificity of B cell responses to T-dependent Ags and that occupancy of the Ag receptor dictates the outcome of APO-1-ligation on B cell survival.