To investigate the association between hepatitis C virus (HCV) and B cell proliferation, we searched for the clonal B cells by flow cytometric analysis of the surface immunoglobulin kappa (kappa):lambda (lambda) light chain ratios of the circulating B (CD19+) cells in 240 HCV-positive patients and 150 negative controls with liver diseases. Clonal B cells with light chain restriction (kappa:lambda ratio >3:1 or <1:2) were analyzed for CD5 expression and the presence of monoclonal immunoglobulin heavy-chain (IGH) gene rearrangements and the t(14;18) chromosomal translocation. Clonal B cells were detected in 7 cases with HCV (2.9%), but was never detected in the controls (p < 0.05). Of the 7 cases, all had monoclonal IGH gene rearrangements and one had the t(14;18) chromosomal translocation. These HCV-related clonal B cells are not uniform in the intensity of CD5 expression and showed no increase in the frequencies of CD5+ population compared with non-clonal B cells. No "chronic lymphocytic leukemia-phenotype" cells were found. The loss of clonality was observed in 2 cases treated with interferon and in one case treated with splenectomy. The longitudinal study is required to determine whether these circulating clonal B cells progress to lymphoproliferative disorders in future or not.