Cross-linking surface immunoglobulin (sIg) on B-lymphocytes causes a substantial increase in the mechanical stiffness of the cells. This has been demonstrated using a new method for measuring cellular deformability. The method is based on a device, the "Cell Poker", which we use to determine the force required slightly to indent or compress a cell adherent to a rigid substrate in culture. Cross-linking of sIg by bivalent anti-sIg antibodies is necessary to elicit the increase in stiffness; binding of monovalent Fab fragments is insufficient. The increase in stiffness is partially reversed by cytochalasin D and by completion of the capping of the cross-linked sIg. The modulation of cellular deformability and the induction of cellular dynamic processes such as capping are similar in their requirements for cross-linking sIg and in their sensitivity to cytochalasins. This suggests that both kinds of responses stem from similar cellular processes and structures. These results emphasize the mechanical capability of lymphocytes and suggest that the physiological functions of these cells are likely to employ this capability.