The V(H) repertoire on both H chain alleles of normal and lambda5-deficient B lineage cells were analyzed by single-cell PCR. The mu H chains were tested for their capacity to form a pre-B cell receptor. In bone marrow, D-proximal V(H) genes were found preferentially expressed in lambda5-deficient pre-B cells and in a newly identified early c-kit+ cytoplasmic mu H chain+ pre-B cell population of normal mice. Only half of the mu H chains expressed in these cells have the capacity to form a pre-B cell receptor. Representation of the D-proximal V(H) genes was found suppressed on the productive but not on the nonproductive V(H)DJ(H) rearranged alleles of c-kit preB-II cells and splenic lambda5-deficient B cells. More than 95% of the mu H chains expressed in preB-II cells can form a pre-B cell receptor. These results demonstrate that the pre-B cell receptor in normal mice and the B cell receptor in lambda5-deficient mice mediate a shift in the V(H) repertoire.