Immunoassays were developed to detect antibodies against oligopeptides deduced from the putative core gene of hepatitis C virus, and their performances were compared with that of the commercial immunoassay for antibodies against the product of nonstructural regions of hepatitis C virus (anti-C100-3). A 19-mer oligopeptide (CP10) and a 36-mer oligopeptide (CP9) were chemically synthesized, which represented hydrophilic regions of the product of the hepatitis C virus core gene. They were used to capture corresponding antibodies, anti-CP10 and anti-CP9, by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in sera from patients with acute or chronic non-A, non-B liver disease and in blood donations. At the onset of acute non-A, non-B hepatitis, anti-CP10 was detected in 15 of 20 patients (75%), and anti-CP9 was detected in 14 patients (70%). This was more frequent than anti-C100-3, which was found in only 9 patients (45%). In 186 patients with chronic non-A, non-B liver disease, anti-CP9, anti-CP10 or both were detected in 170 patients (91%). This was more frequent than anti-C100-3, which was found in 138 patients (74%). Blood with anti-CP10 as the single serological marker for hepatitis C virus infection transmitted non-A, non-B hepatitis by needlestick exposure. In sera from 558 apparently healthy blood donors, anti-CP10 was detected in 55 donors (9.9%), anti-CP9 was detected in 26 donors (4.7%) and anti-C100-3 was detected in 7 donors (1.3%). Among sera positive by at least one test, 14 were found to contain hepatitis C virus RNA; 7 of them were negative for anti-C100-3 but positive for anti-CP10 and/or anti-CP9 in high titers. These results indicate that antibodies against antigenic determinants of the hepatitis C virus core would complement anti-C100-3 for the diagnosis of non-A, non-B liver disease and contribute toward further decreasing the incidence of posttransfusion non-A, non-B hepatitis. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;15:180-186).