Monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 were produced. Two antibodies reacted with the 17-kilodalton core protein (p17) of the virus and with its polyprotein precursor. To various degrees, each MAb neutralized infection by the cell-free virus. With a series of sequential overlapping hexapeptides which represent the p17 gene product, the epitopes identified by the MAbs were defined. The epitopes localize to overlapping regions near the amino terminus of the protein. Soluble synthetic peptides which span the antibody-binding sites of interest were demonstrated to competitively inhibit the reactivity of p17 MAbs, thus confirming the location of virus-neutralizing sites within the core protein.