In order to examine the effects of chain length on the propensity of short peptides to form helix-like structures in aqueous solution, we have studied a peptide of 31 residues consisting of the C-terminal sequence (residues 88-118) of the four-helix bundle protein myohemerythrin from Themiste zostericola. This peptide, termed MDC, represents the final two elements of secondary structure in the protein, the D-helix and the C-terminal loop sequence, together with a five-residue sequence at the N terminus corresponding to the linker between the C- and D-helices. An N-capping sequence, VDAKNV, immediately precedes the D-helix sequence, and a C-capping sequence, VNHIKGT, corresponding to the alphaL termination motif, occurs at the C-terminal end. The effect of replacement of a cysteine residue in the middle of the sequence with an alanine was explored by the comparison of the MDC peptide and a 16-residue peptide representing the sequence of the D-helix alone, both containing the change Cys99Ala. Significant changes in the NMR and CD spectra were seen for both peptides compared to the wild-type sequence. A comparison of the fluorescence spectra of the wild-type and Cys99Ala peptides indicated that a specific interaction between the side chains of Cys 99 and Trp 102 acts to quench the fluorescence of the tryptophan ring and probably contributes a component that distorts the CD spectrum of the wild-type peptide at approximately 220-235 nm. The effect of an increase in the length of the peptide, with the incorporation of capping sequences derived from the native sequence, was explored by NMR and CD spectroscopy of the 31-residue and 16-residue peptides in aqueous solution and in TFE/water mixtures. Evidence for the formation of a significant population of helical conformers in the region of the MDC peptide corresponding to the D-helix was observed in aqueous solution using CD and NMR spectroscopy. The C-terminal 10 residues of the MDC peptide behave in solution in a manner identical to that of a 10-residue peptide with the same sequence; a highly specific local interaction between an aromatic ring and a glycine amide proton appears to be retained in the longer peptide. Upon addition of trifluoroethanol (TFE), significant shifts are observed in a number of resonances in the NMR spectrum, and both chemical shifts and NOEs provide evidence for a higher population of helix in the D-helix region of the peptide in TFE. However, TFE is unable to promote the propagation of helix beyond the N-cap or alphaL termination motifs, and the specific local interaction observed in the C-terminal sequence is retained in TFE. The CD spectrum in TFE shows an increase in the proportion of helix, to an overall maximum of approximately 55% helix at 50% v/v TFE, corresponding to approximately 100% helix in the D-helix sequence of the peptide, since the N and C termini of the MDC peptide are not helical according to the NMR spectra. The high proportion of helix observed in the D-helix sequence of the longer MDC peptide demonstrates that the presence of intact capping sequences can constrain the peptide conformational ensemble to resemble that seen in the native protein. A compendium of results from this and previous peptide studies has also led to a novel observation, the existence of a correlation between the amide proton chemical shift and temperature coefficient.