Ontogeny of thymic B cells and their surface characteristics were analyzed using monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against B220 molecules (CD45, CD45R). A small number of B cells were detected in fetal thymus on Gestation Day 14 (approximately 3.5% of the low-density fraction). Similarly, the percentage of B cells in the low-density fraction was 3.2% on Gestation Day 18, and 3.5% on Day 1 after birth. These were the same level as that of adult mice. CD5+ B cells, which form the major population of thymic B cells, were also found in the fetal life (0.5% on Day 14 and 2.2% on Day 16 in the low-density cells). The percentage of CD5+ B cells in B cell-enriched fraction was about 65% on Day 1 after birth, which is the same level as that in adult mice. These results indicate that a small number of B cells or cells in the B-cell lineage are present in the fetal thymus and also suggest the importance of these thymic B cells in the negative selection of T cells during early developmental stages.