Pre-B cells in developing rabbits were identified by immunofluorescence as cells containing small amounts of cytoplasmic IgM (cIgM) but lacking surface immunoglobulin (sIg). During ontogeny the first pre-B cells appeared in fetal liver at 23 days gestation, 2 days before the appearance of sIgM+ B lymphocytes. Pre-B cells were relatively frequent in fetal and adult bone marrow, but were not found in other tissues except rarely in fetal spleen. Allelic exclusion is apparently established at this early stage of development, because individual pre-B cells and B lymphocytes from heterozygous rabbits expressed only one of the alternative alleles in amounts sufficient for detection. Development of isotype diversity among rabbit B lymphocytes followed the general pattern seen in mouse and man. sIgM+ cells were detected before birth. Expression of sIgG was detected in neonatal rabbits on cells which were also sIgM+ but in older animals most sIgG+ cells lacked sIgM. Cells bearing sIgA were not found until 5-6 days of age, and had no other isotype on their surface.

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