Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is a defective RNA virus which is dependent on hepatitis B virus for essential helper functions. Only a single highly basic phosphoprotein, HDV antigen (HDAg), is expressed by the HDV genome during infection in humans. Antibody directed to HDAg is important in the diagnosis of HDV infection, and it is likely but not yet proven that the immune response to HDAg provides significant protection against subsequent exposures to HDV. In an effort to map the antigenic domains of HDAg, 209 overlapping hexapeptides, spanning the entire 214 amino acid residues of the protein, were synthesized on polyethylene pins and probed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with sera containing high titers of anti-HD antibodies. Domains recognized by antibodies present in serum from human chronic carriers of this virus included residues 2 to 7, 63 to 74, 86 to 91, 94 to 100, 159 to 172, 174 to 195, and 197 to 207. Antibody from an acutely superinfected woodchuck recognized similar epitopes, as well as a domain spanning residues 121 to 128. Together, residues in these antigenic domains constitute 41% of the HDAg molecule. Oligopeptides 15 to 29 residues in length and representing epitopes of HDAg found to be dominant in humans (residues 2 to 17, 156 to 184, and 197 to 211) were synthesized in bulk and found to possess significant antigenic activity by microdilution enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The reactivity of peptide 197-211 with human sera confirms that the entire 214 amino acids of HDAg are expressed during infection in vivo. In addition, these results suggest that synthetic peptides may be useful reagents for development of new and improved diagnostic tests for HDV infection.