The frequency and characteristics of B lymphocyte lineage cells in neonatal murine liver and spleen were studied during the first 10 days after birth. These were distinguished as B cells with surface IgM (slgM), immediate precursors of B cells (pre-B cells) lacking slgM but containing micron-heavy chains of IgM, and earlier precursors that did not synthesize immunoglobulin but could be detected with monoclonal 14.8 antibody. Experiments were also done to relate these to cells capable of clonal proliferation in mitogen-containing semisolid agar cultures and cells that acquire this function only after preculture in liquid medium. Newborn liver contained large numbers of early precursors as well as pre-B cells, and culture studies revealed that a majority of the colony-forming B cells present at that time were slg-. Adherent accessory cells in newborn liver suspensions facilitated the maturation of these into functional B cells in vitro. At most ages, however, numbers of slg+ B cells detected in that tissue were surprisingly low. Possible explanations for this include a rapid exit of newly formed B cells and their immediate precursors from liver and/or a high rate of abortive lg gene rearrangements during the neonatal period. In contrast, whereas the spleen contained early precursors and pre-B cells at birth, these cells steadily declined in number with age as the numbers of slgM+ B cells increased. Adherent cells in liver but not spleen of immunodeficient CBA/N mice suppressed B lymphocyte formation in semisolid or liquid cultures. These observations document population dynamics in B lineage cells during a critical period of development.

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