Despite the relatively early reconstitution of blood B-lymphocyte counts observed in patients treated with bone marrow transplantation (BMT), these patients undergo a prolonged phase of humoral immunodeficiency. Adhesion molecules perform relevant functions in many cell types. The present study examines the expression of several adhesion molecules on human B lymphocytes newly formed after BMT. Blood B cells from 38 patients were studied by flow cytometry and three-color analysis. Blood CD5- B lymphocytes obtained at an early stage after BMT (2 to 4 months) showed a markedly low expression of the adhesion molecules CD54, CD44, CD11a, and CD62L. However, these cells exhibited a normal expression of other molecules including CD29, CD19, CD20, and DR. This deficiency was progressively corrected, reaching normal levels in the late post-BMT period (12 to 15 months). In contrast, CD54, CD44, CD11a, and CD62L expression on the patients' CD5+ B lymphocytes was found to be consistently normal. Deficient adhesion molecule expression on CD5- B cells in the early post-BMT period was similarly observed in patients treated with either an allo-BMT (n = 24) or an auto-BMT (n = 14). Because the post-BMT period mimics normal ontogeny, adhesion molecule expression was also investigated in cord-blood B lymphocytes. Cord-blood CD5- B lymphocytes, in contrast to CD5+, also expressed CD54, CD44, CD11a, and CD62L at levels much lower than those found in normal adults. Present data suggest that progressive expression of CD54, CD44, CD11a, and CD62L seems to be a part of the maturational program of CD5- B lymphocytes during both post-BMT and normal development periods. This observation may help to explain the humoral immunodeficiency observed in both conditions.