Monoclonal anti-idiotype (Id) antibodies with specificities for determinants related to the antigen-binding sites of 3 BALB/c myeloma proteins, MOPC-460, HOPC-8 and J558, were used to study Id expression on murine lymphocytes. The monoclonal antibodies were shown to react only with Id structures associated with immunoglobulin on B cells. None of these 3 Id nor a VH Id, detected by a monoclonal antibody made against HOPC-8 heavy chain, were found on T cells. These Id were detected on splenic B cells in neonatal mice; the frequencies in normal, nude and germ-free mice were similar: MOPC-460 Id+: 1.05 +/- 1.7/10(4) spleen cells, HOPC-8 Id+: 1.45 +/- 1.2/10(4) and J558: 0.35 +/- 0.6/10(4). Almost all Id+ cells bore surface IgM, a few expressed surface IgG. MOPC-460 Id+ IgG+ cells were mainly gamma 2a+ or gamma 2b+, whereas J558 and HOPC-8 Id+ IgG+ cells were gamma 3+.