Initially identified as immunoglobulin enhancer-binding proteins, they have also been shown to activate immunoglobulin enhancer-based reporters in transient transfection assays. Here, we examine the relationship between E2A DNA binding activity and activation of the endogenous, chromosomal immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) locus. Using sterile Iμ transcription as an indicator of IgH enhancer activity, we see a direct correlation between E2A DNA binding activity and Iμ transcription in stable B x T hybrids. We also observe a 1000-fold stimulation of endogenous Iμ transcription in fiibroblasts that express high levels of E47 and less stimulation in cells that express E12. By contrast, none of the other IgH enhancer-binding proteins tested (E2-2, Pu.1, Oct-2, OCA-B, TFE3 and USF) were able to activate Iμ, transcription. E47 overexpression also resulted in transcriptional activation of the endogenous gene encoding TdT, indicating that it, too, is a target of E2A proteins early in the B-cell lineage. Our results indicate that E2A proteins have the distinctive property of activating silent, chromatin-embedded B-cell-specific genes, underscoring their crucial role in B-cell development.