Allelic exclusion at the IgH locus was examined in B lineage cells of wild-type mice and mice unable to express the surrogate light chain molecule lambda 5 using a single-cell PCR approach. By analyzing B precursor cells containing two VHDHJH rearrangements, we found that in wild-type animals, cells are allelically excluded as soon as mu chains are expressed. Furthermore, we provide evidence that in cells expressing D mu proteins VH-->DHJH rearrangement is inhibited. In contrast, in the absence of lambda 5 protein, B precursor cells were allelically "included", indicating that allelic exclusion at the IgH locus requires expression of the pre-B cell receptor either containing a mu chain or a D mu chain. However, although mu chain double-producing B precursor cells are generated in lambda 5-deficient mice, such cells were not detected among surface immunoglobulin positive B cells.