To extend the characterization of the human V beta gene repertoire, we utilized anchored or V beta-specific polymerase chain reaction to generate a large (approximately 200 clones) beta-chain library from the thymus of a single individual. Nine new V beta genes were identified, including single members for two new subfamilies (V beta 22 and 23), two new members of the V beta 5 subfamily, and one new member each for V beta 2, 6, 7, 9, and 12. Full-length sequences were also obtained for the published partial sequences of V beta 3, 5.3, 9.1, and 13.4, and additional nucleotides for V beta 7.1 and V beta 7.2. Based on consensus sequences from multiple clones, apparent allelic variants for six V beta genes (V beta 2.1, 5.3, 7.2, 8.2, 13.4, and 16) were also tentatively identified. Population and family studies for two of these (V beta 2.1 and 16) further confirmed that these V beta were alleles and not separate genes. Nonconservative substitutions in some of these alleles, as well as in previously identified alleles, are located at the hypervariable loops or the framework region. These findings indicate that V beta gene polymorphism appears to be significant in humans and might be the result of selective pressure imposed by conventional Ag (hypervariable loops) or superantigens (framework regions).