An antigenic site (represented by 15 amino acids, residues 174 to 188, designated peptide 12) of the large glycoprotein G of respiratory syncytial virus was demonstrated to be subgroup specific in peptide enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests with murine monoclonal antibodies and human postinfection sera. The role of individual amino acids in this subgroup-specific site was determined by use of single-amino-acid-deletion sets of peptides. When monoclonal antibodies were reacted with the deletion sets, a broad amino acid dependence of 11 or 12 residues, Cys-176 (Ile-175 in subgroup B) to Cys-186, was found. Human postinfection sera exhibited a narrower reaction profile (for subgroup A, Cys-182 to Trp-183; for subgroup B, Cys-176 to Lys-183). Reduction of peptides on microtiter plates by treatment with dithiothreitol completely destroyed their antigenic activity in tests with monoclonal antibodies and human postinfection sera of subgroup B. A variant of peptide 12 containing all four cysteines of the G protein (represented by 16 amino acids, residues 172 to 187, designated peptide 12var) also was subgroup specific. We concluded that the activity of the antigenic site in tests with monoclonal antibodies for subgroups A and B appears to depend on intrapeptide disulfide bonds. Reactions with postinfection sera of subgroup B also may depend on a disulfide bond. In contrast, postinfection sera of subgroup A appeared to have the capacity to identify a subgroup-specific site in a linear form of the selected 15-amino-acid-long peptide. Treatment of peptides with dithiothreitol had no effect on their antigenic activity in tests with human postinfection sera of subgroup A. These findings have relevance for molecular engineering of peptide antigens for use in respiratory syncytial virus subgroup-specific site-directed serology.