To examine the role of light chains in early B cell development we combined RAG-1 and lambda 5 mutations to produce mice that expressed neither conventional nor surrogate light chains (RAG-1-/-, lambda 5-/-). Unique heavy and light chain genes were then introduced into the double and single mutant backgrounds. Membrane immunoglobulin (Ig)mu (mIg mu) associated with Ig alpha-Ig beta but was unable to activate the pre-B cell transition in RAG-1-/-lambda 5-/- mice. Either lambda 5 or kappa light chains were sufficient to complement this deficiency. Therefore light chains are absolutely required for a functional Ig signaling module in early B cell development. Our data provide direct evidence for the existence of two pathways for induction of early B cell development: one which is activated through surrogate light chains and mIg mu, and an alternative pathway which uses conventional light chains and mIg mu.

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