Recombinant Onchocerca volvulus Ag have been derived from expression libraries and examined for their ability to stimulate PBMC from patients infected with O. volvulus. Ten clones producing recombinant Ag were selected and plaque purified; lysogens were produced and found to express beta-galactosidase fusion proteins ranging in molecular mass from 115 to 138 kDa. When ammonium sulfate-precipitated lysates of these recombinant phage clones were examined for their ability to stimulate PBMC from a patient with onchocerciasis, all 10 recombinants produced stimulation above that to nonrecombinant phage. When individual fusion proteins, affinity purified on anti-beta-galactosidase linked to agarose, were used to stimulate PBMC from patients with onchocerciasis, only one of the recombinant Ag induced PBMC proliferation (stimulation index greater than 4) above that to Ag from nonrecombinant phage. Characterization of the DNA coding for this Ag showed it to be 1.2 kb in length with a small (90 bp) open reading frame; furthermore, it appears to be Onchocerca specific (on genomic dot blots) and single copy. Using overlapping peptides encompassing the entire open reading frame, one T cell epitope has been localized.