An analytical strategy for the analysis of antigen epitopes by chemical cross-linking and mass spectrometry is demonstrated. The information of antigen peptides involved in the binding to an antibody can be obtained by monitoring the antigen peptides modified by a partially hydrolyzed cross-linker in the absence and in the presence of an antibody. This approach was shown to be efficient for characterization of the epitope on bovine prion protein bPrP(25–241) specifically recognized by a monoclonal antibody, 3E7 (mAb3E7), with only a small amount of sample (200 picomoles) needed. After cross-linking of the specific immuno complex, a matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometer equipped with an ion conversion dynode (ICD) high-mass detector was used to optimize the amount of cross-linked complex formed at 202 kDa before proteolytic digestion. To identify the cross-linked peptides after proteolysis without ambiguity, isotope-labeled cross-linkers, disuccinimidyl suberate (DSS-d0/d12) and disuccinimidyl glutarate (DSG-d0/d6), together with high-resolution Fourier transform ion-cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS) were used. As a result, a complete fading of the peak intensities corresponding to the peptides representing the epitope was observed when bPrP/mAb3E7 complexes were formed. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.