Indirect plaque-forming cell assays detecting B cells secreting antibodies against capsular pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPS) antigens are described. In healthy adult volunteers the total number of B cells secreting IgM antibodies against the antigens in a polyvalent PPS vaccine reached a maximum in the blood 6 days after in vivo immunization (mean: 552/10(6) mononuclear cells), whereas the highest concentration of IgG and IgA antibody-secreting cells (SC) were detected 7 days after immunization (means: 628 and 1691/10(6]. B cells secreting antibodies to PPS type 3 (PPS3), PPS8, PPS18C and C-polysaccharide (CPS)--a cell wall antigen common to all pneumococci--constituted 9%, 16%, 6% and 5% (means) of the total number of antibody SC respectively. While the majority of the anti-PPS-SC secreted IgA antibodies, the anti-CPS-SC almost exclusively secreted IgG. Pre-vaccination concentrations of anti-PPS were generally low in contrast to antibodies against CPS, which were present in high concentrations in all individuals. The discrepancy in the Ig class of the antibody SC is probably related to the difference in the pre-vaccination immunity against PPS and CPS.