We describe rearrangement events which alter expression from a productive VHDJH rearrangement in an Abelson murine leukemia virus-transformed pre-B cell line. One such rearrangement results in replacement of the initially expressed variable region gene by a site-specific join between the open reading frame of a LINE-1 repetitive element and a remaining JH segment. We discuss this event in the context of the 'accessibility' model of recombinase control, and with respect to similar rearrangements involved in oncogene activation. In another subclone of the same pre-B cell line, altered heavy chain expression resulted from a mu to gamma 2b class switch recombination which occurred by a recombination-deletion mechanism but involved a complex inversion. We provide evidence that the germline gamma 2b region is specifically expressed in pre-B cell lines and early in normal development. We propose that the predisposition of pre-B cell lines to switch to gamma 2b production may reflect a normal physiological phenomenon in which the switch event is directed by an increased 'accessibility' of the germline gamma 2b locus to switch-recombination enzymatic machinery. Our findings support the hypothesis that the apparently distinct recombination systems involved in variable region gene assembly and heavy chain class switching are both directed by the accessibility of their substrate gene segments.