Cholera toxin (CT) and the type II heat-labile enterotoxins (LT-IIa and LT-IIb) are potent immunological adjuvants which are hypothesized to enhance the production of antibody (Ab)-secreting cells, although their mechanisms of action are not fully understood. The treatment of splenic cells with concanavalin A (ConA) plus CT enhanced the production of immunoglobulin A (IgA) and IgM by dividing cells that expressed high levels of major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II), CD19, and CD138 and low levels of B220 a phenotype characteristic of plasma blasts. LT-IIa or LT-IIb moderately enhanced IgA and IgM production without enhancing plasma blast differentiation. CT up-regulated CD25, CD69, CD80, CD86, and MHC-II in isolated B cells but failed to induce proliferation or differentiation. The treatment of unfractionated splenic cells with ConA plus CT induced B-cell proliferation and differentiation, but the elimination of CD4(+) T cells inhibited this effect. CT treatment of ConA-activated CD4(+) T cells up-regulated CD134 and CD154, whereas the blockage of CD40-CD154 interactions inhibited the induction of plasma blasts and Ig synthesis. The treatment of unfractionated splenic cells with CT, LT-IIa, or LT-IIb enhanced the production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-10, whereas the production of gamma interferon was inhibited in both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells mostly by CT. Thus, major regulatory effects of CT on lymphocytes are likely exerted early during the induction of immune responses when B and T cells initially encounter antigen. Neither LT-IIa or LT-IIb had these effects, indicating that type II enterotoxins augment Ab responses by other mechanisms.