We studied the expression of normal cellular prion protein (PrPC) in mouse lymphoid tissues with newly developed mAbs to PrPC. Most of the mature T and B cells in the peripheral lymphoid organs do not express PrPC. In contrast, most thymocytes are PrPC+. In the bone marrow, erythroid cells and maturing granulocytes are PrPC+. Approximately 50% of the cells in the region of small lymphocytes and progenitor cells also express PrPC. Most of these PrPC+ cells are CD43+, but B220-, surface IgM- (sIgM-), and IL-7R-, a phenotype that belongs to cells not yet committed to the B cell lineage. Another small group of the PrPC+ cell are B220+, and some of these are also sIgM+. The majority of the B220+ cells, however, are PrPC-. Therefore, PrPC is preferentially expressed in early bone marrow progenitor cells and subsets of maturing B cells. Supporting this interpretation is our observation that stimulation of bone marrow cells in vitro with PMA results in a decrease in the number of PrPC+B220- cells with a corresponding increase of sIgM+B220high mature B cells. This result suggests that the PrPC+B220- cells are potential progenitors. Furthermore, in the bone marrow of Rag-1-/- mice, there are an increased number of PrPC+B220- cells, and most of the developmentally arrested pro-B cells in these mice are PrPC+. Collectively, these results suggest that PrPC is expressed preferentially in immature T cells in the thymus and early progenitor cells in the bone marrow, and the expression of PrPC is regulated during hemopoietic differentiation.