The current literature on human CD5-positive B cells (CD5 + B cells) has been analysed, with a special emphasis on non organ-specific auto-immune diseases. Malignant cells of most of the chronic lymphoid leukaemias of the B cell lineage express the CD5 molecule. Antibodies of the IgM class produced by leukaemic B cells are multispecific auto-antibodies. The CD5 + B cell subset may be expanded in non organ-specific autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, primary Sjögren's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus. This holds true for various conditions, including organ-specific auto-immune diseases. Since auto-immune features are common in lymphoproliferative disorders, and the latter be a complication in non organ-specific auto-immune diseases, CD5 + B cells may represent an intermediary between these auto-immune diseases and B cell lymphoproliferations. Studies on the regulation of CD5 + B cell production and function are likely to shed light on the aetiology of, and pathogenetic mechanisms operating in the different disease states.