A number of distinct functional abnormalities have been observed in B cells derived from p50/ NF-kappa B or c-rel knockout mice. RelB, another member of the NF-kappa B/Rel family of transcription factors, is expressed during the latter stages of B cell maturation and can bind to regulatory sites within the Ig heavy chain locus. Therefore, we tested the ability of B cells from relB knockout mice (relB-/-) to proliferate, undergo maturation to IgM secretion, and switch to the expression of downstream Ig isotypes in response to distinct activators including LPS, anti-CD40 mAb or CD40 ligand, and/or dextran anti-IgD antibodies in combination with various cytokines, including IL-4, IL-5, IFN-gamma, and TGF-beta. B cells lacking RelB showed up to 4-fold reductions in DNA synthesis in response to LPS, CD40, and membrane Ig-dependent activation relative to controls. However, relB-/- B cells were comparable to control B cells in their ability to undergo maturation to IgM secretion and switch to the expression of IgG3, IgG1, IgG2b, IgG2a, IgE, and/or IgA under all activation conditions tested. Thus, RelB, like c-Rel and p50/NF-kappa B, plays a role in B cell proliferation. However, in contrast to c-Rel and p50/ NF-kappa B, it is not critically involved in maturation to Ig secretion or expression of Ig isotypes.