Aging is associated with development of autoimmunity. Loss of B cell tolerance in the elderly is suggested by an increased prevalence of anti-nuclear antibodies (ANAs) and rheumatoid factors (RFs). Accumulating evidence indicates that B cells also impact autoimmunity via secretion of cytokines. So far, few studies have directly assessed the effect of aging on the latter B cell function. Here, we determined if and how human aging influences the production of cytokines by B cells. In a cross-sectional study, we found that absolute numbers of circulating B cells were similar in 31 young (ages 19-39) and 73 old (age >= 60) individuals. Numbers of transitional B cells (CD19(+)CD27(-)CD38(High)CD24(High)) were decreased in old individuals, whereas numbers of naive and memory B cell subsets were comparable in young and old individuals. Short-term in vitro stimulation of whole blood samples revealed that numbers of B cells capable of producing TNF-alpha were similar in young and old individuals. In contrast, B cells capable of IL-10 production were decreased in old subjects. This decline of IL-10(+) B cells was observed in old individuals that were ANA positive, and in those that were negative for both ANAs and RFs. However, IL-10(+) B cells were remarkably well retained in the circulation of old subjects that were RF positive. Thus, pro-inflammatory TNF-alpha(+) B cells are retained in the elderly, whereas IL-10(+) B cells generally decline. In addition, our findings indicate that IL-10(+) B cellsmay differentially impact the development of ANAs and RFs in the elderly. (C) 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.