Small protein domains, capable of specific binding to different target proteins have been selected using combinatorial approaches. These binding proteins, called affibodies, were designed by randomization of 13 solvent-accessible surface residues of a stable alpha-helical bacterial receptor domain Z, derived from staphylococcal protein A. Repertoires of mutant Z domain genes were assembled and inserted into a phagemid vector adapted for monovalent phage display. Two libraries, each comprising approximately 4 x 10(7) transformants, were constructed using either an NN(G/T) or an alternative (C/A/G)NN degeneracy. Biopanning against the target proteins Taq DNA polymerase, human insulin, and a human apolipoprotein A-1 variant, showed that in all cases significant enrichments were obtained by the selection procedures. Selected clones were subsequently expressed in Escherichia coli and analyzed by SDS-PAGE, circular dichroism spectroscopy, and binding studies to their respective targets by biospecific interaction analysis. The affibodies have a secondary structure similar to the native Z domain and have micromolar dissociation constants (KD) for their respective targets.