Precursor cells of the B lineage can be enriched from mouse fetal liver by FACS with the aid of the pre-B cell-specific mAb G-5-2. The cells are concomitantly enriched for cells expressing the pre-B cell-specific gene lambda 5, and for cells developing to LPS-reactive mature B cells. The enriched purified precursors are not influenced by rIL-2 through -7, alone or in combination, to develop to mitogen-reactive, sIg+ cells. Marginal proliferation of the precursors is observed in response to IL-3 plus -4, and IL-6 plus -7, and this does not change in the presence of stromal cells. Development to mitogen-reactive, sIg+ cells is dependent on interactions with embryonic stromal cells from fetal liver. Two mAbs raised against the stromal cells inhibit this development. Two phases of precursor cell development can be distinguished in fetal liver. Between days 13 and 15 of gestation, it is dependent on stromal cell interactions, thereafter, from days 16 to 19, it is independent. A sudden increase in the number of mitogen-reactive, sIg+ B lineage cells occurs within 24 h between days 16 and 17. All these results indicate that B cell development occurs in one wave with synchronous steps of changes from a mitogen-insensitive, sIg-, stromal cell dependent to a mitogen-reactive, sIg+, stromal cell-independent B lineage line.

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