The two Abelson murine leukemia virus (A-MuLV)-transformed cell lines, BM18-4 and ABC-1, undergo immunoglobulin L-chain gene recombination during passage in tissue culture. BM18-4 cells are capable of kappa gene recombination, whereas ABC-1 cells are capable of both kappa and lambda gene recombination. The expression of H chains is apparently not necessary for continuing L chain gene recombination in either of these cells, although H-chain expression may have been involved in the initiation of L-chain gene recombination. All ABC-1 cells that have lambda gene rearrangements also display recombined kappa alleles, supporting the hypothesis that kappa and lambda gene recombination are initiated in an ordered, developmentally regulated manner in maturing B cells. However, analyses of the ABC-1 line indicate that pre-B cells that have initiated lambda gene recombination do not terminate kappa gene rearrangement. The lambda gene recombinations that occur in the ABC-1 cell line indicate that the germline order of lambda gene segments is: 5' ... V lambda 2 ... J lambda 2C lambda 2-J lambda 4C lambda 4 ... V lambda 1 ... J lambda 3C lambda 3-J lambda 1C lambda 1 ... 3'. In addition, the frequencies of lambda 1, lambda 2, and lambda 3 gene recombinations among ABC-1 cells are quite different than the frequencies of B cells producing lambda 1, lambda 2, and lambda 3 L-chains in the mouse. RS DNA recombinations also occur in the BM18-4 and ABC-1 cell lines, supporting the notion that Ig gene recombinases are involved in RS rearrangement. Recombined RS segments are infrequent among BM 18-4 cells but common among ABC-1 cells, suggesting that RS recombinational events often occur in maturing pre-B cells just before initiation of lambda gene rearrangements. This developmental timing is consistent with the hypothesis that RS recombination may be involved in the initiation of lambda gene assembly.