The molecular characteristics of the humoral immune response to a serotype A Cryptococcus neoformans infection were compared with the response elicited by a cryptococcal glucuronoxylomannan-tetanus toxoid (GXM-TT) conjugate. Anticryptococcal monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) isolated from both responses have previously been shown to recognize the same antigenic determinant of cryptococcal GXM. Southern blot and sequence analyses indicate that the hybridomas isolated from each response arose from only a few precursor B cells. All the mAbs generated from the infected and GXM-TT conjugate-immunized mice utilize the same VH7183 family member: JH2/JH4, v kappa 5.1, and J kappa 1; mAbs generated by different B cells had complementarity-determining region 3's (CDR3s) composed of seven amino acids with a common sequence motif. Thus, the molecular analysis of these anticryptococcal mAb-producing hybridomas indicated that the response to both cryptococcal infection and conjugate immunization was oligoclonal and highly restricted with regard to immunoglobulin gene utilization. The GXM-TT conjugate primarily stimulated isotype switching and clonal proliferation, and did not result in hybridomas expressing additional immunoglobulin repertoires. The mAbs from both responses had a number of replacement mutations at the 5' end of CDR2 that appear to be the result of antigen-driven selection. Somatic mutation also resulted in altered epitope specificity for one mAb, 13F1. Passive administration of representative mAbs from different clones generated in response to the GXM-TT conjugate prolonged survival of lethally infected mice.