Encounter with antigen by newly developing antigen receptor-positive B cells leads to negative selection. This process positions the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) in a central role for initiating the process of negative selection and suggests developmental regulation of its signaling. The observation that immature B cells are more susceptible to negative selection than are mature B cells has been demonstrated in a number of in vitro and in vivo model systems and support the idea of developmental regulation of BCR-initiated responses. Since identical antigen receptors are expressed on immature and mature B cells, the critical fate-determining distinction between these developmental stages must lie downstream of the receptor-ligand interaction itself, in the form of different BCR-linked signaling processes or with different secondary events occurring subsequent to BCR cross-linking. To address the first possibility, our laboratory and others have sought to define the differences in BCR-mediated signal transduction in immature and mature B lymphocytes. In this review article we will discuss current in vitro systems to study this question in primary, nontransformed murine B lymphocytes. In addition, we will discuss our previously published work in order to illustrate how these model systems have been useful in beginning to unravel the molecular basis for immune B cell negative selection and tolerance.