Somatic point mutations are usually found in the coding and flanking regions of functionally and aberrantly rearranged immunoglobulin variable region gene segments. Mutations in the unrearranged V gene segments of myelomas or hybridomas have not been described so far. We have cloned and sequenced unrearranged V lambda gene segments from several cell lines. There were no nucleotide changes in four unrearranged V lambda segments: one V lambda 1 from a lambda 3-producing hybridoma and one V lambda 2 from a lambda 1-producing myeloma (J558) and two V lambda 2 from a kappa-producing myeloma (P3X63). However, we found somatic mutations in the unrearranged V lambda segments from the lambda 2-producing myeloma MOPC315. The unrearranged V lambda 1 gene segment had two mutations in the coding region and the unrearranged V lambda 2 had one mutation in the 3' flanking region. We also cloned and sequenced the unrearranged J lambda and C lambda gene segments of MOPC315 and found no sequence alterations. This is consistent with the notion that the overall mutation rate is not higher in this cell line. Therefore, we suggest that the somatic hypermutation system can use unrearranged V gene segments as substrates. The extensive sequencing required for this work revealed a number of errors in the reported nucleotide sequences of the Ig lambda locus in BALB/c mice.