In this Review we will include studies on the development immunoglobulin repertoire. We will discuss the pattern of V, (D), and J rearrangement in both normal B cells and autoimmune disorders. We will define the role of the recombination signal sequences and the importance of the nucleotide sequence of these highly conserved motifs. Whether deviations from the consensus recombination signal sequence will be tolerated by the recombination mechanism and the importance of the recombination-activating genes are also discussed. We will address the issue of whether pathogenic autoantibodies are generated as part of the normal immune repertoire and the importance of receptor editing as a means by which the immune system deletes autoreactive B cells. (C) 1996 Academic Press, Inc.