CD4 ligation of HIV envelope gp120 results in conformational changes in gp120 that lead to exposure of the gp41 fusogenic domain and fusion with the host cell membrane. One determinant at or near the CD4-binding site exposed on gp120 subsequent to CD4 binding is defined by two human MAbs termed 17b and 48d. These MAbs do not block CD4 binding to gp120; rather, their binding to gp120 is upregulated following CD4 binding. To determine if synthetic peptide mimetopes could be found that reflect conformational determinants on the surface of gp120, synthetic gp120 peptides from 10 divergent HIV isolates were screened for their ability to bind to 17b and 48d in ELISAs. Although MAb 48d binds to HIV IIIB recombinant gp120 protein, in our studies 48d selectively bound only to the HIV Can0A V3 peptide and not to HIV IIIB V3 peptide, whereas MAb 17b bound none of the peptides tested. Monoclonal antibody 48d bound to the HIV Can0A V3 peptide both in solid-phase ELISA and in solution in a competitive ELISA, but could not bind to HIV Can0A V3 peptide bound to human T cells. The HIV Can0A V3 peptide induced anti-HIV antibodies in rhesus monkeys that neutralized the laboratory-adapted HIV MN strain but did not induce antibodies that neutralized HIV IIIB/LAI, HIV SF-2, or HIV RF isolates, or that neutralized HIV primary isolates. These data suggested that the primary sequence of the HIV Can0A V3 loop exists in a conformer that mimicks a non-V3 determinant of native gp120 exposed subsequent to CD4 binding on the surface of gp120 of laboratory-adapted HIV strains. Structural studies of the Can0A V3 peptide and/or the 48d MAb may provide important information regarding the nature of gp120 conformational changes that occur following gp120 ligation by CD4.