We investigated the neoplastic cells obtained from 37 cases of 'non-B, non-T' (SIg-E-) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) for their expression of 13 distinct monoclonal antibody defined B lymphocyte associated differentiation antigens. We correlated the expression of these B cell antigens with terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT), HLA-DR antigen, common ALL antigen (cALLa), and cytoplasmic mu heavy chain (Cu) expression by these neoplastic cells. In this way, we were able to describe a hierarchy of B lymphocyte associated differentiation antigens as well as the marked phenotypic heterogeneity of 'non-B, non-T' ALL. TdT and HLA-DR are expressed throughout the stages of B cell differentiation represented by 'non-B, non-T' ALL. The earliest B cell antigen appears to be Leu 12 (B4) followed by BA-2 and then BL2. OKB2, BL1 and BA-1 are acquired next, followed by B1, BL3, cALLa and Cu. BL7 appears just prior to SIg. OKB1, OKB4, OKB7 and BL4 appear at or after the time of SIg expression and hence are not expressed by 'non-B, non-T' ALL cells. This developmental hierarchy is supported by the results of phorbol ester (TPA) induction studies. Thus, cases of 'non-B, non-T' ALL constitute a useful model for probing the hierarchal expression of B cell antigens and delineating the B cell developmental pathway(s).