We analyzed the participation of a predominant B cell clonotype in the anti-arsonate immune response of mice in which Bcl-2 expression was enforced in B cells. Many of the antibodies expressed by the arsonate-induced memory compartment of these mice were "dual-reactive," displaying increased affinity acquired via V region somatic hypermutation for both arsonate and the autoantigen DNA. The hypermutated antibodies expressed by the anti-arsonate memory B cell compartment of normal mice have increased affinity for arsonate but lack measurable affinity for DNA. Thus, interference with apoptotic pathways allows developing memory B cells that have acquired autoreactivity to bypass a peripheral tolerance checkpoint. These data demonstrate that both positive and negative selection, working in concert with V gene somatic hypermutation, result in the "specificity maturation" of the antibody response.