A hitherto unknown defect in the immune responsiveness of B lymphocytes from SJL mice has enabled us to distinguish two qualitatively distinct classes of signal delivered to B cells by C8-substituted guanine ribonucleosides. This defect renders B cells from SJL mice unresponsive to the inductive (early acting) signal of 8-mercaptoguanosine (8MGuo) that culminates in mitogenesis and nonspecific secretion of immunoglobulin. Unresponsiveness is not attributable to a shift in either the dose-response or kinetic profiles, nor can the presence of suppressor cells be demonstrated. In striking contrast, however, SJL B cells exhibit normal responsiveness to the differentiative (T cell-like, or late acting) signal provided by the substituted nucleoside. This signal enables SJL B cells, depleted of T cells, to respond to T cell-dependent antigens, and synergizes with T cell-derived lymphokines. These data suggest 1) that nonspecific secretion of immunoglobulin is dependent on both inductive and differentiative signals, 2) that antigen alone can supply an effective inductive signal for antigen-specific responses, and 3) that the SJL mouse will provide a useful model for selective study of inductive vs differentiative events.