Noncross-reactive monoclonal antibodies specific for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) were obtained after pre-selection for submolecular specificity with a synthetic peptide immunogen. Mice were immunized with a synthetic peptide representing a segment unique to the beta-subunit of hCG (amino acid residues 109-145), conjugated to diphtheria toxoid. We then derived nine different hybridomas that secreted monoclonal antibodies reactive with both native hCG and isolated C-terminal peptide, after somatic cell hybridization of immune spleen cells with a nonsecretory myeloma cell line. None of the nine monoclonal antibodies, termed beta-hCG-CTPa1----a9, reacted with hLH, hFSH, or hTSH, although these pituitary hormones display extensive amino acid sequence homology with hCG. The noncross-reactive anti-beta-hCG monoclonal antibodies show apparent association constants on the order of 10(9) to 10(10) M-1. A sandwich-type enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was set up with cut-off values of around 5 mIU/ml. These antibodies might have important implications for: a) improving the diagnosis and clinical management of pregnancy; b) monitoring the course of development of carcinomas which secrete the hormone, through in vitro assays or in vivo radioimmunodetection; c) evaluating the antibodies' therapeutic potential against such carcinomas; d) studying the biologic functions of the C-terminal segment of beta-hCG; and e) addressing the anti-fertility effect of antibodies raised against that segment.