We have cloned the cDNA encoding the KIV chain of a human antibody with specificity against the major carbohydrate antigen of Streptococcus A. The cDNA has been used as a genetic probe to estimate the number of germline VKIV genes in human DNA. The presence of unique hybridizing bands on digestion of human DNA with several restriction endonucleases and the equivalence of the DNA in a band to a single gene per haploid genome point to the conclusion that there is a unique human VKIV germline gene. The corollary of this conclusion is that the diversity of human VKIV chains must be exclusively due to somatic mutation. This is supported by examination of the sequences of human KIV chain genes and their KIV chain products. Fusion of the unique germline VKIV gene (1) with one of several JK segments, followed by somatic mutations in the V region of the rearranged KIV gene, can account for the known sequences. The restricted germline gene repertoire may account for the small proportion of human KIV chains in the human K chain sequence library (2).