We have previously reported the identification, using human immune sera, of mimotopes of human hepatitis B virus surface Ag (HBsAg) displayed on filamentous phage. To test if these mimotopes could be useful in developing a vaccine against the human hepatitis B virus (HBV), we have compared the humoral immune response of animals immunized either with a recombinant HBsAg vaccine, or with mimotopes. Immunogens were prepared by fusing the mimotopes on different carrier molecules (phage coat protein pIII and pVIII, recombinant human H ferritin, HBV core peptide) and by synthesizing multiple antigenic peptides carrying the mimotopes' amino acid sequences. These immunogens were injected into mice and rabbits and sera were collected and tested for the presence of HBsAg-specific Abs. Our data confirm that mimotopes can induce a humoral immune response resembling that induced by the original Ag, and HBsAg mimotopes displayed on phage prove to be the best immunogens, inducing the most reproducible and potent immunization. Mimotopes that react as HBV subtype-specific Ags do not show this specificity as immunogen and induce a nonsubtype-restricted response. Furthermore, mimotopes displayed on phage elicit a strong response to HBsAg in a strain of mouse reported to show a low response to it. These results indicate that mimotopes identified from random peptide libraries through utilizing human immune sera could be important leads for the derivation of new vaccines.