In these studies we have determined the molecular weights of B cell growth factor (BCGF) (less than 20,000), and B cell differentiation factors (BCDF) that induce immunoglobulin M (IgM) secretion (BCDF mu) (30-60,000) and IgG secretion (BCDF gamma) (less than 20,000). Thus, the molecular weight of BCDF mu is distinct from that of BCGF and BCDF gamma; BCGF and BCDF gamma cannot be distinguished. In addition, BCGF, BCDF mu, and BCDF gamma are distinguishable by their presence or absence in different supernatants from a panel of mitogen-induced T cell clones. These results suggest that the three lymphokines are different. This conclusion is supported by their differential biological effect on B cells from adult and neonatal mice. Thus, treatment with anti-Ig induces B cells from adult mice to proliferate and this proliferation is sustained by BCGF. In contrast, even in the presence of BCGF, anti-Ig does not induce B cells from neonatal mice to proliferate. However, BCDF mu and BCDF gamma induce IgM and IgG secretion in B cells, respectively, from both adult and neonatal mice. Thus, mature B cells can both clonally expand and differentiate in response to anti-Ig, BCGF, and BCDF, whereas immature B cells can only differentiate. The poor response of neonatal B cells to anti-Ig and BCGF may partially explain the relative immunoincompetence of immature B cells.