The relationship between synthesis, secretion, and subcellular localization of J-chain, IgM, IgA, and IgG was investigated in cultures of PWM-stimulated human PBL and in lymphoblastoid cell lines. Cells were examined for surface, cytoplasmic, and secreted immunoglobulins (Igs) and J-chain by immunofluorescence and radioimmunoassay (RIA). By these techniques, J-chain was detected in cells that produce polymeric or monomeric Igs. In PWM-stimulated PBL the synthesis of J-chain paralleled the production of Igs. In both PWM-stimulated (for 2 days) and unstimulated PBL, equal proportions of free and disulfide-linked J-chain were found. Increased amounts of intracellular J-chain were produced at later stages in PWM-stimulated PBL and J-chain occurred mostly in a free form. In tissue culture fluids, J-chain was not secreted in a free form but was always disulfide-linked to polymeric Igs. In lymphoblastoid cell lines, J-chain was present in a disulfide-linked form in IgM and IgA producers, but in IgG cells and in an IgM cell line (DAUDI) that did not secrete IgM but expressed it on the cell membrane, intracellular J-chain was present in free form. Although various proportions of polymeric and monomeric IgA were seen in culture fluids from IgA-secreting cell lines, intracellular IgA occurred mostly in a monomeric form. Further studies revealed that the ability to produce polymers was not equally distributed among all cells and might vary according to their content of J-chain and stage of maturation. Subcellular fractionation and subsequent analyses for J-chain and Ig in PWM-stimulated PBL and in IgM or IgG-producing cell lines revealed that these proteins were associated with fractions that contained ribosomes, cell sap, and low molecular weight RNA. In lysates of IgG and J-chain producing cells grown in the presence of 3H-labeled amino acids, intracellular J-chain was not disulfide-linked to IgG. © 1983.