Transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) can inhibit the in vitro proliferation, survival and differentiation of B cell progenitors, mature B lymphocytes and plasma cells. Here we demonstrate unexpected, age-dependent reductions in the bone marrow (BM) B cell progenitors and immature B cells in TGFbeta1-/- mice. To evaluate TGFbeta responsiveness during normal B lineage development, cells were cultured in interleukin 7 (IL7) +/- TGFbeta. Picomolar doses of TGFbeta1 reduced pro-B cell recoveries at every timepoint. By contrast, the pre-B cells were initially reduced in number, but subsequently increased compared to IL7 alone, resulting in a 4-fold increase in the growth rate for the pre-B cell population. Analysis of purified BM sub-populations indicated that pro-B cells and the earliest BP1- pre-B cells were sensitive to the inhibitory effects of TGFbeta1. However, the large BP1+ pre-B cells, although initially reduced, were increased in number at days 5 and 7 of culture. These results indicate that TGFbeta1 is important for normal B cell development in vivo, and that B cell progenitors are differentially affected by the cytokine according to their stage of differentiation.