A plasmid including a mouse immunoglobulin mu gene was transfected into the IgG-secreting human lymphoid line HMy2 and mouse B- and pre-B-cell lines WEHI 231 and 18-81; stably transfected cells were selected. Transfected HMy2 cells synthesized mouse immunoglobulin mu chains as a major secreted protein but the WEHI 231 and 18-81 transfectants transcribed the introduced mu gene at lower levels. In HMy2 transfectants, most of the transcription of the introduced heavy chain gene initiated 40 and 62 bp upstream of the beginning of the VH exon translation start, although a small proportion of transcripts initiating further upstream was detected. WEHI 231 and 18-81 transfectants gave a much higher proportion of upstream initiation. Transient expression of the VH exon was monitored following transfection of mouse myeloma with the VH gene DNA in various plasmid constructs. VH transcription was only observed if the plasmids contained a segment derived from the large VH-CH intron of the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus. This segment, located between JH and switch regions, functioned both downstream of the VH exon and upstream in either orientation. The existence of a transcription enhancer element in this region is therefore proposed.