The amyloid A4 or beta peptide is a major component of extracellular amyloid deposits that are a characteristic feature of Alzheimer's disease. We synthesized a series of peptide analogs of the A4/beta peptide which are progressively longer at their carboxyl termini, including 42- and 39-residue peptides which represent the major forms of the A4/beta peptide in senile plaque and the hereditary cerebral hemorrhage with amyloidosis form, respectively. All peptides tested, beta 1-28 through beta 1-42, formed amyloid-like fibrils and previously unreported thin sheet-like structures which stained with thioflavin T and Congo Red. The solubility of beta 1-42 and shorter peptides was pH and concentration dependent, with a broad insolubility profile in the pH range of 3.5-6.5 and at concentrations above 0.75 mg/ml. Only peptides of 42 residues or longer were significantly insoluble at pH 7.4. beta 1-47 and beta 1-52 peptides are highly insoluble in aqueous media but are soluble at 40 mg/ml in the alpha helix-promoting solvent, 1,1,1,3,3,3-hexafluoro-2-propanol. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed that the beta 1-42 peptide migrates as a series of higher molecular mass aggregates whereas shorter peptides migrate as monomers. Aggregation is also dependent on pH, peptide concentration, and time of incubation in aqueous medium. These results indicate that the length of the hydrophobic carboxyl terminus of the A4/beta peptide is important in determining the solubility and aggregation properties of the A4/beta peptide and that acid pH environment, high peptide concentration, and long incubation time would be predicted to be important factors in promoting amyloid deposition.