Media from murine pre-B and B lymphoma cell cultures, but not from myeloma cell cultures, was cytotoxic to WEHI 164 cells, causing these TNF-sensitive targets to release 51Cr. The cytotoxic activity in the culture medium reached maximum levels approximately 4 days after the cell culture was initiated. The constitutive production of the factors was not influenced by depletion of serum from the medium or by the addition of either phorbol ester or bacterial endotoxin. The factor has a Mr greater than 10 kDa, and its cytotoxicity was abolished by anti-serum against murine TNF. Northern blot analysis with the use of cDNA probes to murine tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha) and lymphotoxin (LT, TNF-beta) showed high levels of TNF-mRNA in the pre-B cell lines, lower levels in the mature B cell lines and no TNF-mRNA in the myeloma cell lines. LT mRNA was present in pre-B cell lines, at a much lower concentration in only one of the B cell lines, and was not present in three other B lymphomas or in the myelomas tested. The results show a positive correlation between the presence of TNF and/or LT mRNA and the 51Cr-releasing activity present in the cell culture medium. Our data indicate that TNF and LT can be produced by murine B cells and that the synthesis of these cytokines may be restricted to certain differentiation stages of the B cell lineage.