The genes that encode the variable regions of immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy chains are encoded by three DNA segments: VH, D, and JH. During B-cell development these segments are brought together by a pair of site-specific DNA rearrangements. The first of these joins a D segment to a JH segment; the second brings a VH segment in apposition to a DJH unit. B-cell precursors that have undergone D-to-JH joining express transcripts that initiate at the 5' flanks of rearranged D segments (DJH transcription). In this study we have examined the coordination of D-to-JH rearrangement and DJH transcription. The B-lymphoid progenitor cell line HAFTL-1 cell clone, joining of distal D segments (DSP2 and DFL16) to JH is accompanied by an increase in the steady-state level of transcripts initiating 5' of the D coding region. Steady-state transcription of a DSP2 gene segment was undetectable prior to rearrangement and was observed to increase at least 20-fold upon joining to JH. In contrast, transcription from the 5' flank of DQ52, which lies within 700 bp of the JH cluster, was detected prior to rearrangement and did not increase significantly after rearrangement. The 5' flank of a DSP2 segment was found to support expression of a heterologous gene upon transfection into B progenitor cell lines. Expression from this DSP2 promoter was at least 30-fold higher in the presence of the Ig heavy-chain enhancer, in either orientation, than in its absence. A DNA fragment spanning the interval from -165 to +19 bp relative to the major DSP2 transcriptional start site retained enhancer-dependent promoter activity. These observations imply that activation of DSP12JH and DFL16JH transcription is coordinated with D-to-JH rearrangement by approximation of enhancer-dependent D promoter elements to the Ig heavy-chain enhancer. This interpretation is consistent with our observation that the DQ52 segment, which is closely linked to the JH cluster, is transcribed both before and after rearrangement.