Antisera generated against each of seven synthetic peptides corresponding to constant and variable sequences of the pilin from gonococcal strain MS11 were assayed for their ability to crossreact with intact pili from both homologous and heterologous strains. The peptides elicited roughly equal antipeptide responses but varied substantially in their ability to elicit antisera that crossreacted with intact pili. Of the antisera to peptides corresponding to regions of conserved sequence, antisera directed against residues 69-84 were the most efficient in binding pili from all strains tested in both solid-phase assays and immunoblots. Anti-69-84 also efficiently precipitated a tryptic fragment of pilin known to bind human endocervical cells. Sera against the two peptides (121-134 and 135-151) previously shown to contain strain-specific epitopes crossreacted with MS11 pili equally well, but differed in their ability to bind pili from heterologous strains. Anti-121-134 was strain-specific whereas anti-135-151 bound all pilin tested. Each of the sera was examined for its ability to inhibit bacterial adhesion to a human endometrial carcinoma cell line. Sera generated against residues 41-50 and 69-84 successfully inhibited a heterologous gonococcal strain from binding. These peptides could be important components of an effective vaccine for the prevention of gonorrhea.