Newly formed B lymphocytes are a population of rapidly renewed cells in the bone marrow of mammals and their steady state production presumably depends on a cascade of regulatory cells and cytokines. Although considerable information has been forthcoming about the role of interleukin-7 (IL-7) in potentiating pre-B-cell proliferation, few studies have addressed the possibility that multiple cytokines are involved in the progression of early events in cellular differentiation and proliferation in this hematopoietic lineage. Our laboratory previously described pre-B-cell differentiation mediated by the bone marrow stromal cell line S17. In this study, we further delineate the role of stromal cells in differentiation and proliferation of pre-B cells. These experiments show that the stromal cell line S17 potentiates the proliferative effect of IL-7 on B-lineage cells and that this S17-derived potentiator can be replaced with recombinant kit- ligand (KL). Our results further show that pre-B-cell formation from B220-, Ig- progenitor cells and expression of mu heavy chain of immunoglobulin is uniquely dependent on the presence of S17 stromal cells and cannot be reproduced with IL-7, KL, or costimulation with both IL-7 and KL. These data contribute to a rapidly evolving model of stromal cell regulation of B-cell production in the marrow and suggest unique roles for IL-7, KL, and as yet uncharacterized stromal cell- derived lymphokines in this process.