Investigation of human antibody responses to viral pathogens at the molecular level is revealing novel aspects of the interplay of viruses with the humoral immune system. In viral infection, at least two types of human antibody responses exist: a response to mature envelope on virions that is neutralizing and a response to immature forms of envelope (viral debris) that is not. Many pathogens have, to varying degrees, evolved envelopes to minimize antibody responses against epitopes exposed on the virion. In this article, we review recent studies on human immunodeficiency virus type 1, Ebola virus, and respiratory syncytial virus. Prion diseases are diseases of protein conformation. We have generated a large panel of antibodies recognizing the cellular prion protein (PrP(c)), some of which also react with the abnormally folded infectious prion protein (PrP(Sc)). These antibodies are being used to gain insight into both the molecular events leading to the formation of infectious PrP and the physiologic role played by PrP in normal and prion-infected cells.