Bispecific single-chain diabodies (scDb) consist of the variable heavy and light chain domains of two antibodies connected by three linkers. The structure of an scDb in the V(H)-V(L) orientation is V(H)A-linkerA-V(L)B-linkerM-V(H)B-linkerB-V(L)A, with linkers A and B routinely chosen to be 5-6 residues and linker M 15-20 residues. Here, we applied display of scDb on filamentous phage to analyse the composition of optimal linker sequences. The three linkers were randomized in length and sequence using degenerated triplets coding for only six hydrophilic or aliphatic amino acids (Thr, Ser, Asp, Asn, Gly, Ala). Antigen-binding clones were then isolated by one to two rounds of selection on the two different antigens recognized by the bispecific scDb. Using an scDb directed against carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and beta-galactosidase (Gal), we found that monomeric scDb had a preferred length of 15 or more amino acid residues for the middle linker M and of 3-6 residues for the linkers A and B. No obvious bias towards a preferred linker sequence was observed. Reduction of the middle linker below 13 residues led to the formation of dimeric scDb, which most likely results from interchain pairing between all the V(H) and V(L) domains. Dimeric scDb were also formed by fragments possessing a long linker M and linkers A and B of 0 or 1 residue. We assume that these dimeric scDb are formed by intrachain pairing of the central variable domains and interchain pairing of the flanking variable domains. Thus, the latter molecules represent a novel format of bispecific and tetravalent molecules. The described strategy allows for the isolation of both optimized and minimal linker sequences for the assembly of monomeric or dimeric single-chain diabodies.