In the post-genomic era, validation of candidate gene targets frequently requires proteinbased strategies. Phage display is a powerful tool to define protein-protein interactions by generating peptide binders against target antigens. Epitope phage display libraries have the potential to enrich coding exon sequences from human genomic loci. We evaluated genomic and cDNA phage display strategies to identify genes in the 5q31 Interleukin gene cluster and to enrich cell surface receptor tyrosine kinase genes from a breast cancer cDNA library. A genomic display library containing 2 × 106 clones with exon-sized inserts was selected with antibodies specific for human Interleukin-4 (IL-4) and Interleukin-13. The library was enriched significantly after two selection rounds and DNA sequencing revealed unique clones. One clone matched a cognate IL-4 epitope; however, the majority of clone insert sequences corresponded to E. coli genomic DNA. These bacterial sequences act as ‘mimotopes’ (mimetic sequences of the true epitope), correspond to open reading frames, generate displayed peptides, and compete for binding during phage selection. The specificity of these mimotopes for IL-4 was confirmed by competition ELISA. Other E. coli mimotopes were generated using additional antibodies. Mimotopes for a receptor tyrosine kinase gene were also selected using a breast cancer SKBR-3 cDNA phage display library, screened against an anti-erbB2 monoclonal antibody. Identification of mimotopes in genomic and cDNA phage libraries is essential for phage display-based protein validation assays and two-hybrid phage approaches that examine protein-protein interactions. The predominance of E. coli mimotopes suggests that the E. coli genome may be useful to generate peptide diversity biased towards protein coding sequences.Abbreviations used: IL, interleukin; ELISA, enzyme linked immunoabsorbant assay; PBS, phospho-buffered saline; cfu, colony forming units.