The monoclonal antibody A2B5 recognizes antigens at the surface of neuronal and glial cells but also at the surface of thymus epithelia and pancreatic islet cells. Although these antigens have been characterized as polysialogangliosides, A2B5 also reacts with other unidentified gangliosides. In order to characterize further the epitope of A2B5, two new ganglioside antigens isolated from chicken brain are identified in this study. One is the ganglioside NeuAc alpha 2-8NeuAc alpha 2-8NeuAc alpha 2-3Gal beta 1-4Glc beta 1-1ceramide (GT3) and the other is a 9-O-acetylated derivative of GT3). This derivative was purified from 10-day embryonic chicken brain. Acetyl groups substituted on sialic acid were removed either by alkali treatment or by incubation with influenza virus C, which contains receptor-destroying enzyme (a neuraminidate 9-O-acetyl esterase). The product of alkali treatment or viral action was detected by the antibody 18B8 which is specific for GT3. The deacetylated product still reacts with A2B5. These data and the results of mild oxidation of the antigen with sodium periodate suggest that the epitope recognized by antibody A2B5 contains the trisialyl structure found in GT3 but does not include the polyalcohol chain of the terminal sialic acid which can be oxidized by periodate or acetylated without modifying the affinity for the antibody. The epitope recognized by A2B5 is different from the epitope recognized by the antibody 18B8 in that 18B8 requires the three sialic acids with an intact and unsubstituted polyalcohol chain. Antibody 18B8 does not bind to 9-O-acetylated GT3 or GT3 oxidized by sodium periodate.