The crystal structure of a synthetic peptide representing the major antigenic loop of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), complexed with the Fab fragment of a neutralizing monoclonal antibody raised against the virus, has been determined at 2.8 A resolution. The peptide shows a high degree of internal structure with a nearly cyclic conformation. The conserved Arg-Gly-Asp motif, involved in the viral attachment of aphtoviruses to cells, participates directly in the interaction with several complementarity determining regions of the antibody molecule. The Arg-Gly-Asp triplet shows the same open turn conformation found in the reduced form of FMDV of another serotype and also in integrin binding proteins. The observed interactions provide a molecular interpretation of the amino acid replacements observed to occur in mutants resistant to neutralization by this antibody. The structure also suggests a number of restrictions to variation within the epitope which are imposed to keep the Arg-Gly-Asp motif in its functional conformation.