The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients is characterized by increased concentrations of immunoglobulin (Ig), which on electrophoretic analysis shows restricted heterogeneity (oligoclonal bands). CSF Ig is composed of both serum and intrathecally produced components. To examine the properties of intrathecal antibody-producing B cells, we analyzed Ig heavy-chain variable (V(H)) region genes of B cells recovered from the CSF of 12 MS patients and 15 patients with other neurological diseases (OND). Using a PCR technique, we could detect rearrangements of Ig V(H) genes in all samples. Sequence analysis of complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3) of rearranged VDJ genes revealed expansion of a dominant clone or clones in 10 of the 12 MS patients. B cell clonal expansion was identified in 3 of 15 OND. The nucleotide sequences of V(H) genes from clonally expanded CSF B cells in MS patients demonstrated the preferential usage of the V(H) IV family. There were numerous somatic mutations, mainly in the CDRs, with a high replacement-to-silent ratio; the mutations were distributed in a way suggesting that these B cells had been positively selected through their antigen receptor. Our results demonstrate that in MS CSF, there is a high frequency of clonally expanded B cells that have properties of postgerminal center memory or antibody-forming lymphocytes.