A group of unique Epstein-Barr virus-containing cell lines was derived from the bone marrow of three patients with X-linked agammaglobulinemia. Efforts to obtain cell lines from the peripheral blood of these patients were uniformly unsuccessful. Immunofluorescence analyses as well as biosynthetic studies with [(35)S]methionine indicated unusual patterns of Ig synthesis in many of these bone marrow derived lines. Seven of the lines were of particular interest in that two produced no Ig of any type; two others showed no Ig by fluorescence but small amounts by [(35)S]methionine labeling; one expressed only cytoplasmic μ chains without any evidence of light chain synthesis, and two produced primarily μ chains with only slight amounts of light chains. One of the lines without membrane or cytoplasmic Ig studied in detail grew like a typical lymphoid line and was carried in intermittent culture over a period of 2 yr without Ig expression. One line grew quite differently and resembled the round cell type described previously, which has been obtained from a variety of sources. The cell line with cytoplasmic μ chains and no light-chain expression had the characteristic properties of pre-B cells. Three normal type Ig-producing cell lines also were obtained from the patients.
The accumulated evidence obtained in the present study indicates that these unusual cell lines represent normal precursor cells of the B-cell lineage; these grew out in these cases because of the virtual absence of mature B cells that ordinarily overgrow the culture system. However, the possibility that in certain instances they reflect abnormal Ig synthesis characteristic of the disease has not been ruled out.