Three murine monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that neutralize equine arteritis virus (EAV) infectivity were identified and characterized. The antibodies, 93B, 74D(B) and 38F, recognized the major envelope glycoprotein (GL) encoded by open reading frame (ORF) 5 in immunoblots and by immunoprecipitation. All three MAbs were used to compare the Bucyrus isolate of EAV and MAb neutralization-resistant (NR) escape mutants with the vaccine virus and 19 independent field isolates of EAV by virus neutralization. The different abilities of the MAbs to neutralize virus isolates indicated that they recognize non-identical epitopes. Susceptibility to virus neutralization could not be used to distinguish viruses from acutely and persistently infected horses. Comparison of the ORF 5 nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequence from NR and neutralization-sensitive virus isolates revealed amino acid sequence changes at positions 99 and 100 which correlate with the NR phenotype. Additional unique changes in the amino acid sequence of MAb NR viruses at positions 96 and 113 may also contribute to neutralization resistance. The sequence data further showed that the Bucyrus-derived viruses contain one N-glycosylation site, whereas the field isolates DL8 and DL11 possess two sites, both of which are used. Most of the non-conservative amino acid sequence changes were located within the second half of the N-terminal hydrophilic domain. Sequence changes within the first half of the N-terminal ectodomain, the predicted transmembrane domain and the C-terminal hydrophilic domain were mainly silent base substitutions or resulted in conservative amino acid substitutions, suggesting that these regions of the protein are functionally conserved.