X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) is one of the most frequent inherited immunodeficiency diseases in man and is characterized by an almost complete arrest of B cell differentiation at the pre-B cell stage. The gene defective in XLA encodes the cytoplasmic signaling molecule Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk). Next to the CBA/N strain of mice, carrying a single amino acid substitution mutation in the Btk gene, which results in the X-linked immunodeficiency (xid) phenotype, additional mouse models have been developed to study the role of Btk in vivo. This review discusses the analyses of Btk null-mutants, obtained by gene targeting in embryonic stem cells, and transgenic mice that express wild-type or mutated forms of the Btk gene. These studies provided information on the function of Btk at several important checkpoints throughout B cell development. Analyses of the mouse models indicated that Btk is not essential for pre-B cell receptor signaling in the mouse. By contrast, Btk-mediated B cell receptor signaling appears to be required for the survival of immature B cells in the bone marrow, that have performed a successful immunoglobulin (Ig) L chain locus rearrangement, resulting in the expression of a non-autoreactive Ig on the membrane. Btk is also shown to be involved in signaling pathways that govern the development of peripheral B cells, including follicular entry, follicular maturation and plasma cell differentiation.