In mice, the absence of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (Tdt) expression during fetal and neonatal life provides a window in development where clones of lymphocytes are generated that provide protective immunity. Introducing premature Tdt activity interferes with the development of these clones and results in an impaired ability to make protective antibodies. Conversely, gene-targeted disruption of Tdt prevents N additions at all stages of T and B-lymphocyte development and promotes the development of fetal-like T and B-cell clones into adulthood, with accompanying alterations in repertoire. The alternative splice forms of Tdt may be necessary to provide regulatory mechanisms to restrict N addition to appropriate stages of the developmental pathways, the details of which are being revealed. The evidence continues to build that Tdt is a key player in influencing the outcome of V(D)J recombination during lymphocyte and repertoire development.