Two different approaches, the phage display technique and the Spot peptide synthesis on cellulose membranes, were used to identify sequences recognized by Fab 57P, specific for tobacco mosaic virus protein (TMVP), and define the preferred chemical composition of a functional epitope. Kinetic measurements of the interaction between peptide variants and the antibody fragment were used to further refine the molecular basis of binding activity. Our results show that the functional epitope of Fab 57P requires precise physico-chemical properties at a limited number of positions, and that residues flanking these key residues can influence binding affinity. The phage display and Spot synthesis methods allowed the straightforward localization of the binding region and the identification of residues that are essential for recognition. However, these methods yielded slightly different views of accessory factors that are able to influence antibody binding. The influence on binding activity of these factors can only be assessed through quantitative affinity measurements.