CD27 has been found to be expressed on somatically mutated B cells and is thus a positive marker for memory B cells in peripheral blood (PB). Since abnormal immunogloblin (Ig) production is characteristic of the autoimmune diseases primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we have analyzed in detail the CD27 expression on PB B cell from these patient groups. Staining of PB B cells with monoclonal antibodies (MoAb) specific for CD19 and CD27 revealed a significantly depressed percentage of CD27+ PB B cells in patients with pSS (14.8 +/- 1.6%) compared to both healthy donors (31.3 +/- 4.7%, P = 0.005) and patients with RA (40.8 +/- 4.1%, P = 0.0001). In addition, the percentages of both the IgD+CD27+ and the IgD-CD27+ B-cell subpopulations were significantly lower in pSS patients compared to RA patients and healthy donors. However, the relative proportion of IgD- and IgD+ cells among the CD27+B cells were almost the same for the three groups. Our data suggest a disturbance in the differentiation of peripheral B cells and possibly a bias towards plasma cell differentiation, resulting in a depressed percentage of CD27+ memory PB B cells in pSS. These results are potentially of pathological significance and of diagnostic value.