We used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify genes encoding murine immunoglobulin (Ig) lambda light-chain variable (V) regions, using DNA isolated from populations of germinal center B-cells, to study somatic hypermutation at this locus. Sequence analysis revealed that 30% of the amplified products were chimeric molecules consisting of segments of the V lambda 1 and V lambda 2 genes. Furthermore, an amplification- and cloning-associated artifact exchanged sequences between mutational variants of V lambda 1 genes. These PCR artifacts interfere with the analysis of somatic hypermutation of Ig genes. An alternative method that avoids these artifacts is suggested which involves the amplification of individual V lambda genes from single cells.