mel-18 is a mammalian homolog of Drosophila melanogaster Polycomb group genes. Mice lacking the mel-18 gene show a posterior transformation of the axial skeleton, severe combined immunodeficiency, and a food-passing disturbance in the lower intestine due to hypertrophy of the smooth muscle layer. In this study, the severe combined immunodeficiency observed in mel-18 mutant mice is correlated with the impaired mitotic response of lymphocyte precursors upon interleukin-7 stimulation. Strikingly, the axial skeleton and lymphoid phenotypes are identical in both mel-18 and bmi-1 mutants, indicating that the Mel-18 and Bmi-1 gene products might act in the same genetic cascade. These results suggest that mammalian Polycomb group gene products are involved in cell cycle progression in the immune system.