The mechanism responsible for somatic mutation in the variable genes of antibodies is unknown and may differ from previously described mechanisms that produce mutation in DNA. We have analyzed 421 somatic mutations from the rearranged immunoglobulin variable genes of mice to determine (1) if the nucleotide substitutions differ from those generated during meiosis and (2) if the presence of nearby direct and inverted repeated sequences could template mutations around the variable gene. The results reveal a difference in the pattern of substitutions obtained from somatic mutations vs. meiotic mutations. An increased frequency of T:A to C:G transitions and a decreased frequency of mutations involving a G in the somatic mutants compared to the meiotic mutants is indicated. This suggests that the mutational processes responsible for somatic mutation in antibody genes differs from that responsible for mutation during meiosis. An analysis of the local DNA sequences revealed many direct repeats and palindromic sequences that were capable of templating some of the known mutations. Although additional factors may be involved in targeting mutations to the variable gene, mistemplating by nearby repeats may provide a mechanism for the enhancement of somatic mutation.