B cells may play both pathogenic and protective roles in T-cell mediated autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). These functions relate to the ability of B cells to bind and present antigens. Under serum-free conditions we observed that 3-4% of circulating B cells from healthy donors were capable of binding the MS-associated self-antigen myelin basic protein (MBP) and of presenting the immunodominant peptide MBP85-99, as determined by staining with the mAb MK16 recognising the peptide presented by HLA-DR15-positive cells. In the presence of serum, however, the majority of B cells bound MBP in a complement-dependent manner, and almost half of the B cells became engaged in presentation of MBP85-99. Even though complement receptor 1 (CR1, CD35) and CR2 (CD21) both contributed to binding of MBP to B cells, only CR2 was important for the subsequent presentation of MBP85-99. A high proportion of MBP85-99 presenting B cells expressed CD27, and showed increased expression of CD86 compared to non-presenting B cells. MBP-pulsed B cells induced a low frequency of IL-10-producing CD4+ T cells in 3 out of 6 donors, indicating an immunoregulatory role of B cells presenting MBP-derived peptides. The mechanisms described here refute the general assumption that B-cell presentation of self-antigens requires uptake via specific B-cell receptors, and may be important for maintenance of tolerance as well as for driving T-cell responses in autoimmune diseases.