The human serum antibody response to polypeptides of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) was quantitated by reflectance densitometry of Western immunoblots by using two commercially available blotting systems. In one system, human antibodies were detected by an avidin-biotin method using peroxidase as the label, and in the other, human antibodies were detected by peroxidase-labeled conjugate against human immunoglobulins. When staining intensity was plotted against the log of the serum dilution, a shallow slope was evident, with a 50% change in staining intensity requiring as much as a 100-fold change in antibody content. The linear range of the staining intensity curves was frequently found in serum dilutions of 1:2,500 to 1:1,000,000, and a plateau was often observed at high antibody concentrations (1:80 to 1:640). When replicate strips were tested, staining intensities varied by +/- 7 to 37%. Antibodies to p24gag and gp160env were readily detectable in several sera diluted 1:1,000,000, a result seen with both blotting systems. If Western blotting were to be used to observe increase or decreases in levels of antibodies to various polypeptides, several widely spaced serum dilutions would need to be tested.