CD5, a pan-T cell antigen, is expressed on a minor subset of normal B lymphocytes and on cells of most B lineage tumors or transformed B cells in both man and animal models. In the present study, the effects of various humoral factors on CD5 expression by cells of a subcloned 70Z/3 murine pre-B leukemia cell line were investigated. Among the humoral factors studied, only LPS up-regulated CD5 expression on 70Z/3 cells (three- to fourfold) in a dose-dependent manner. However, this up-regulatory effect of LPS was not observed when cells were cultured in serum-free medium. NZB-serum factor (NZB-SF), a cytokine we have identified and shown to enhance the maturation and proliferation of immature B cells, synergistically enhanced CD5 expression in the presence of suboptimal doses of LPS. IL-4 down-regulated CD5 expression by 70Z/3 cells induced by LPS or LPS plus NZB-SF in a dose-dependent manner. IL-4 also suppressed spontaneous CD5 expression by 70Z/3 cells. No other cytokine tested showed an inhibitory effect. LPS, IFN-gamma, NZB-SF, and IL-1 enhanced sIg expression on 70Z/3 cells and their action on sIg expression was not inhibited by IL-4. Thus, the down-regulatory action of IL-4 on CD5 expression appeared specific for this antigen. IFN-gamma, which inhibits IL-4 induced CD23 and DR expression on B cells, does not abolish the down-regulatory action of IL-4 on CD5 expression by 70Z/3 cells. Changes in mRNA levels on coding CD5 were also examined following the incubation of 70Z/3 cells (24 hr) in the presence of humoral factors which can influence CD5 Ag expression. The levels of mRNA for CD5 Ag were moderately increased in the presence of LPS and NZB-SF. IL-4 appeared to suppress the actions of NZB-SF and LPS at least in part by reducing the levels of mRNA encoding CD5.