B cell stimulatory factor 1 (BSF-1)/interleukin 4 (IL-4) has striking effects on colony formation in soft agar by small resting B lymphocytes. BSF-1 alone induces colony formation in this cell population, presumably in costimulation with a mitogenic substance present in bacto-agar. In costimulation with anti-IgM antibodies, BSF-1 caused initial proliferation of 8 to 10% of B cells, resulting in a large number of cell clusters (10 to 40 cells/clone) after 3 to 4 days of incubation. However, substantial number of colonies (greater than 40 cells/clone) developed only from these clusters when IL-1 was added to the cultures. Using a modified immunoperoxidase staining technique for the determination of IgM allotype, evidence was obtained that B cell colonies stimulated with BSF-1 are derived from a single progenitor cell. Neutralization of BSF-1 with 11B11 after a culture period of 1 to 4 days inhibits further proliferation of B cell colonies, indicating that the action of BSF-1 extends for several cell generations beyond initial stimulation from the resting state. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that the synergistic action of IL-1 with BSF-1 is confined to the late culture period, indicating a growth-promoting effect by IL-1 for activated B cells.