We have used multiparameter flow cytometry to identify a population of IgG1+ IgM- antigen-specific B cells which emerges in spleens of C57BL/6 mice following immunization with the hapten, (4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl)acetyl (NP). Characterization of the specificities of IgG1 antibodies produced by single, sorted IgG1+ NP+ cells in both Elispot assays and in microcultures containing lipopolysaccharide, interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4 and IL-5 indicates that the splenic IgG1+ NP+ B cell population includes both IgG1 anti-NP antibody-secreting cells and non-secreting, IgG1+ memory B cells. Each functionally discrete population of IgG1+ B cells expresses a distinctive surface phenotype defined by a wide range of B cell markers. In particular, antibody-secreting, IgG1+ cells were uniquely identified by co-expression of the matrix receptor, syndecan. The NP-specific B cell population emerging in the day 7 primary response was assessed for clonotypic diversity by amplification and direct sequencing of the rearranged V186.2 heavy chain variable region gene expressed by single, ex vivo IgG1+ NP+ lambda+ B cells. Memory B cell clones, distinguished by junctional diversity, carried either no mutation or a single mutation within rearranged V186.2, suggesting isolation of these cells at the onset of the hypermutation mechanism. This novel approach, therefore, allows the direct and unambiguous identification and characterization of individual B cell clonotypes during their initial selection and activation in antibody responses in vivo.