B1 lymphocytes are a small but unique component of the innate immune-like cells. However, their ontogenic origin is still a matter of debate. Although it is widely accepted that B1 cells originate early in fetal life, whether or not they arise from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) is still unclear. In order to shed light on the B1 cell origin, we set out to determine whether their lineage specification is dependent on Notch signaling, which is essential for the HSC generation and, therefore, all derivatives lineages. Using mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to recapitulate murine embryonic development, we have studied the requirement for Notch signaling during the earliest B-cell lymphopoiesis and found that Rbpj-deficient mESCs are able to generate B1 cells. Their Notch independence was confirmed in ex vivo experiments using Rbpj-deficient embryos. In addition, we found that upregulation of Notch signaling induced the emergence of B2 lymphoid cells. Taken together, these findings indicate that control of Notch signaling dose is crucial for different B-cell lineage specification from endothelial cells and provides pivotal information for their in vitro generation from PSCs for therapeutic applications.This article has an associated ‘The people behind the papers’ interview.