Bacterial fusion proteins, constructed from overlapping fragments of the open reading frame coding for gp86 of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) strain AD169, were used to localize antigenic regions recognized by antibodies from human convalescent sera. A major domain for binding of conformation-independent antibodies was localized on fusion protein AP86, containing amino acids 15 to 142 of gp86. Human antibodies, affinity purified on AP86, neutralized infectious virus in tissue culture. In addition, a mouse monoclonal antibody (AP86-SA4), raised against AP86, also neutralized HCMV. AP86-SA4 was reactive with viral gp86 in immunoblot assays and showed a plasma membrane staining on intact HCMV-infected fibroblasts late in infection. After exonuclease III deletions of the viral gene, the binding site of neutralizing human as well as mouse antibodies was localized between amino acid residues 34 and 43. The domain has sequence variation between laboratory strains AD169 and Towne, and binding of the antibodies was strain specific. To our knowledge, this is the first characterization of a strain-specific neutralizing epitope on HCMV.