A rabbit antiserum raised against anti-alprenolol mAb 14C3 detects common antigenic determinants (ADC3) in 10 out of 14 anti-alprenolol mAb that use different germ-line VH and/or Vk genes. The anti-14C3 antiserum binds only to H chains in immunoblots, therefore suggesting that at least part of the ADC3 determinants may be encoded by H chain V region genes. Analysis of VH gene family usage among the anti-alprenolol mAb reveals that the expression of ADC3 correlates with utilization of VH genes that belong to the J558 gene family, regardless of the JH, Vk, and Jk genes. To determine whether the ADC3 determinants are general V region markers or whether they are unique to anti-alprenolol antibodies, we have extended our analysis to a random panel of antibodies that also use VH genes of the J558 family. Among 23 mAb of various specificities, 14 react with the anti-14C3 antiserum in immunoblot and in ELISA, irrespective of antibody specificity. Adsorption of the antiserum on one of these positive antibodies results in a loss of reactivity toward both anti-alprenolol and unrelated antibodies. Therefore, several but not all antibodies that use a J558 VH gene also express the complete set of epitopes defining ADC3. These results strongly suggest that ADC3 are markers of a subset of J558 VH gene products. The anti-14C3 antiserum may thus constitute a "serologic probe" for identification of a VH gene subgroup from the J558 gene family.