Reductions in populations of both Pre-B cell (Hardy fractions D) and Pro-B cells (Hardy fractions B–C) have been described in association with murine lupus. Recent studies of B cell populations, based on evaluation of B cell differentiation markers, now allow the enumeration and enrichment of other stage specific precursor cells. In this study we report detailed analysis of the ontogeny of B cell lineage subsets in New Zealand black (NZB) and control strains of mice. Our data suggest that B cell development in NZB mice is partially arrested at the fraction A Pre–Pro B cell stage. This arrest at the Pre-Pro B cell stage is secondary to prolonged lifespan and greater resistance to spontaneous apoptosis. In addition, expression of the gene encoding the critical B cell development transcription factor BSAP is reduced in the Pre–Pro B cell stage in NZB mice. This impairment may influence subsequent B cell development to later stages, and thereby accounts for the down-regulation of the B cell receptor component Igα (mb-1). Furthermore, levels of expression of the Rug2, λ5 and Igβ (B29) genes are also reduced in Pre–Pro B cells of NZB mice. The decreased frequency of precursor B cells in the Pre–Pro B cell population occurs at the most primitive stage of B cell differentiation.