BCR editing in the bone marrow contributes to B cell tolerance by orchestrating secondary Ig rearrangements in self-reactive B cells. We have recently shown that loss of the BCR or a pharmacologic blockade of BCR proximal signaling pathways results in a global "back-differentiation" response in which immature B cells down-regulate genes important for the mature B cell program and up-regulate genes characteristic of earlier stages of B cell development. These observations led us to test the hypothesis that self-Ag-induced down-regulation of the BCR, and not self-Ag-induced positive signals, lead to Rag induction and hence receptor editing. Supporting this hypothesis, we found that immature B cells from xid (x-linked immunodeficiency) mice induce re-expression of a Rag2-GFP bacterial artificial chromosome reporter as well as wild-type immature B cells following Ag incubation. Incubation of immature B cells with self-Ag leads to a striking reversal in differentiation to the pro-/pre-B stage of development, consistent with the idea that back-differentiation results in the reinduction of genes required for L chain rearrangement and receptor editing. Importantly, Rag induction, the back-differentiation response to Ag, and editing in immature and pre-B cells are inhibited by a combination of phorbol ester and calcium ionophore, agents that bypass proximal signaling pathways and mimic BCR signaling. Thus, mimicking positive BCR signals actually inhibits receptor editing. These findings support a model whereby Ag-induced receptor editing is inhibited by BCR basal signaling on developing B cells; BCR down-regulation removes this basal signal, thereby initiating receptor editing.