The CD19+ B-lymphocyte and CD138+ plasma cell repertoires in cerebrospinal fluid from four patients with monosymptomatic optic neuritis (ON) were analyzed by single-cell reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Amplified heavy (H)– and light (L)–chain antibody segments were sequenced and used to identify the rearranged germline and J segment of closest homology. Both the B-cell and plasma cell repertoires from ON cerebrospinal fluid demonstrated significant clonal expansion. Up to 75% of the amplified H- and L-chain sequences were contained in overrepresented populations and were somatically mutated, consistent with an antigen-targeted response. The relationship between clonal populations within the CD19+ B lymphocyte and CD138+ plasma cell populations suggests ongoing mutational pressure to refine antigen binding. Our observations demonstrate that an antigen-driven clonal B-lymphocyte and plasma cell response is prominent in the initial stages of central nervous system demyelination and suggest that detection of the disease-relevant antigens in ON may bear on the inciting antigens in chronic inflammatory disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Ann Neurol 2004;56:97–107