Antibody produced by a variant of the murine antidigoxin hybridoma 26-10 has reduced affinity for digoxin but enhanced recognition of the digoxin 12-hydroxyl due to a Tyr to His substitution at heavy chain position 50 (Schildbach, J. F., Panka, D. J., Parks, D. R., Jager, G. C., Novotny, J., Herzenberg, L. A., Mudgett-Hunter, M., Bruccoleri, R. E., Haber, E., and Margolies, M. N. (1991) J. Biol. Chem. 266, 4640-4647). Consistent with these data, the 26-10 Fab-digoxin x-ray crystal structure (Jeffrey, P. D., Strong, R. K., Sieker, L. C., Chang, C. Y., Campbell, R. L., Petsko, G. A., Haber, E., Margolies, M. N., and Sheriff, S. (1993) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., in press) reveals that Tyr-50 contacts a region of digoxin that includes the hapten-12 carbon. To determine the effects of other heavy chain position 50 substitutions, mutant antibodies were engineered, and their affinities for digoxin and digoxin analogues were measured. The affinity of the mutant antibodies for digoxin roughly correlates with the size of the position 50 side chain. Substitutions of Trp or Phe have no effect on affinity, whereas substitutions of Asn, His, Leu, Ala, Gly, and Asp confer progressively lower affinities. Although Trp and Phe mutants exhibit wild-type specificity, Asn and Asp mutants have improved affinity for digoxin relative to digitoxin (12-deshydroxydigoxin). Leu, Ala, and Gly mutants have improved affinity for 12-acetyldigoxin relative to digoxin as compared with 26-10. These results indicate that position 50 is a determinant of both antibody affinity and fine specificity for antibody 26-10 and that single-amino acid substitutions can alter antibody fine specificity. Models of the mutants were computationally constructed, and haptens were docked into the modeled binding sites. The results suggest that 12-acetyldigoxigenin occupies different orientations in the 26-10 and in the Ala mutant binding sites, resulting in altered binding.