Primary Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of the salivary and lacrimal glands, producing associated dry eyes (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), dry mouth, and intermittently swollen salivary glands. A high proportion of the infiltrating B lymphocytes express surface and cytoplasmic Ig bearing a kappa-L chain-associated CRI defined by reactivity with the murine mAb, 17.109. To determine the structural basis for CRI expression in this disease, we generated CRI+ lymphoblastoid cell lines and a cDNA library from lymphocytes extracted from Sjogren's syndrome patients' salivary gland biopsy specimens. Nucleic acid sequence analyses of the mRNA of one such 17.109-CRI+ lymphoblastoid cell line (NOV) reveals the expressed kappa light chain variable region gene (V kappa gene) to be homologous to Humkv325, a conserved V kappa gene used at relatively high frequency in certain B cell malignancies. In addition, synthetic oligonucleotides, corresponding to the first and third frameworks and the second complementarity determining region of the Humkv325 gene, were used to identify and isolate clones from a cDNA library generated from SS salivary gland lymphocytes. Clones annealing specifically with one or more of these oligonucleotide probes contained kappa light chain cDNA. The sequences corresponding to the variable region of two clones (Taykv320 and Taykv306) were homologous to Humkv325. The V kappa genes of four other cDNA clones (Taykv322, Taykv310, Taykv308, and Taykv312) most likely were generated somatically from the rearranged Humkv325 gene through a limited number of nucleic acid base substitutions. Our results suggest that the high frequency of 17.109-CRI expression in Sjogren's syndrome patients results from a multiclonal expansion of B cells using Humkv325, and that the expressed Humkv325 may undergo somatic diversification in an apparent Ag-driven response.