Résumé : Defective regulation of secondary immunoglobulin V(D)J gene rearrangement promotes the production of autoantibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). It remains unclear, however, whether the regulation of the recombination-activating genes RAG1 and RAG2 is effective in SLE. RAG1 and RAG2 messenger RNA expression was analysed before and after in vitro activation of sorted CD19(+) CD5(-) B cells with anti-immunoglobulin M antibodies, in 20 SLE patients and 17 healthy controls. The expression of CDK2 and p27(Kip1) regulators of the RAG2 protein, were examined. The levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and its influence on RAG regulation were also evaluated in vitro. SLE patients had increased frequency of RAG-positive B cells. B-cell receptor (BCR) engagement induced a shift in the frequency of kappa- and lambda-positive cells, associated with a persistence of RAG messenger RNA and the maintenance of RAG2 protein within the nucleus. While expression of the RAG2-negative regulator CDK2 was normal, the positive regulator p27(Kip1) was up-regulated and enhanced by BCR engagement. This effect was the result of the aberrant production of IL-6 by SLE B cells. Furthermore, IL-6 receptor blockade led to a reduction in p27(Kip1) expression, and allowed the translocation of RAG2 from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. Our study indicates that aberrant production of IL-6 contributes to the inability of SLE B cells to terminate RAG protein production. Therefore, we hypothesize that because of constitutive IL-6 signalling in association with BCR engagement, SLE B cells would become prone to secondary immunoglobulin gene rearrangements and autoantibody production.