Human monoclonal antibodies have considerable potential in the prophylaxis and treatment of viral disease. However, only a few such antibodies suitable for clinical use have been produced to date. We have previously shown that large panels of human recombinant monoclonal antibodies against a plethora of infectious agents, including herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, can be established from phage display libraries. Here we demonstrate that facile cloning of recombinant Fab fragments against specific viral proteins in their native conformation can be accomplished by panning phage display libraries against viral glycoproteins "captured" from infected cell extracts by specific monoclonal antibodies immobilized on ELISA plates. We have tested this strategy by isolating six neutralizing recombinant antibodies specific for herpes simplex glycoprotein gD or gB, some of which are against conformationally sensitive epitopes. By using defined monoclonal antibodies for the antigen-capture step, this method can be used for the isolation of antibodies to specific regions and epitopes within the target viral protein. For instance, monoclonal antibodies to a nonneutralizing epitope can be used in the capture step to clone antibodies to neutralizing epitopes, or antibodies to a neutralizing epitope can be used to clone antibodies to a different neutralizing epitope. Furthermore, by using capturing antibodies to more immunodominant epitopes, one can direct the cloning to less immunogenic ones. This method should be of value in generating antibodies to be used both in the prophylaxis and treatment of viral infections and in the characterization of the mechanisms of antibody protective actions at the molecular level.