We have identified a novel subset of early B lineage cells in the mouse bone marrow (BM) by GL7 expression on cell surface. GL7(+)B220(low) BM cells have a large cell size and are CD43(-to low), CD95(-), Sca-1(-), I-A(low), IgM(-) and IgD(-), suggesting that they are large pre-B cells. These BM cells express lambda5 and VpreB but not terminal deoxytransferase (TdT) and Bcl-2, and approximately 50 % of them are in cell cycle. This fraction was not detected in BM cells of Rag-1-deficient and Scid mice, supporting that GL7(+)B220(low) BM cells belong to fraction C' and D according to Hardy's criteria or to an early large pre-B-II fraction according to Melchers-Rolink's criteria. Furthermore, GL7(+)B220(low) BM cells can differentiate into IgM(+) immature B cells in co-culture with stromal cells. These results suggest that B lymphocytes pass through the GL7(+) pre-B cell stage during differentiation in the BM. Thus, GL7 is the critical marker to define the proliferation stage of large pre-B cells.