We report the use of "mRNA display," an in vitro selection technique, to identify peptide aptamers to a protein target. mRNA display allows for the preparation of polypeptide libraries with far greater complexity than is possible with phage display. Starting with a library of ≈1013 random peptides, 20 different aptamers to streptavidin were obtained, with dissociation constants as low as 5 nM. These aptamers function without the aid of disulfide bridges or engineered scaffolds, yet possess affinities comparable to those for monoclonal antibody-antigen complexes. The aptamers bind streptavidin with three to four orders of magnitude higher affinity than those isolated previously by phage display from lower complexity libraries of shorter random peptides. Like previously isolated peptides, they contain an HPQ consensus motif. This study shows that, given sufficient length and diversity, high-affinity aptamers can be obtained even from random nonconstrained peptide libraries. By engineering structural constraints into these ultrahigh complexity peptide libraries, it may be possible to produce binding agents with subnanomolar binding constants.