Xanthan gum is an exopolysaccharide secreted by the bacterium Xanthamonas campestris whose ability to make solutions viscous at low concentrations and over a pH and temperature range have generated much interest in both academic and industrial environments. Mutant Xanthamonas strains have been derived that produce xanthan gums with an altered or variant subunit chemical structure and different measured viscosities when compared with the wild type (wt) form of the polymer. Two variant gums were targeted as potentially interesting in this study, these being the nonacetylated tetramer (natet) and the acetylated tetramer (atet), which both lack a side-chain terminal mannose residue and in one case (natet) lacks an acetate group on an internal mannose residue. Solutions of these tetrameric gums possess viscosities higher (natet) and lower (atet) than the wt gum, and therefore we have attempted to determine whether these molecules possess unique conformational preferences when compared with the wt and with each other. In this manner we can initiate an understanding of how a polysaccharide's conformation contributes to its solution properties. The GEGOP software permits a sampling of the static and dynamic equilibrium states of carbohydrate molecules, and this software was employed to calculate equilibrium states of representative oligosaccharides with chemical structures representative of xanthan-like molecules. Energy minimization techniques revealed similar local minima for all three molecules. Some of these minima are comprised of elongate backbone conformations (A type) in which side chains fold onto backbone surfaces. Other minima with A backbones possessed side chains in less intimate backbone contact especially when calculations were performed with a low dielectric constant. This phenomenon was particularly pronounced in the wt molecule where an increased number of negatively charged side-chain residues experience charge repulsion resulting in reduced side-chain-backbone contact. Metropolis Monte Carlo (MMC) dynamic simulations performed with an elevated temperature factor (1000 K) allowed a better qualitative representation of conformational space than 300 K simulations. Employing a nonhierarchical cluster analysis method (population density profile: PDP) coupled with a classification scheme, it was possible to partition resulting MMC data sets into conformational families. This analysis revealed that in simulations performed with different dielectric constant values (10, 25, and infinity) all molecules possessed primarily A-type backbones. Less elongate, more open helical backbone forms (B, C, D, J, and Flat-a) did occur during the simulations but were populated to a lesser extent. In the natet molecule significantly open helical backbones existed (E, F, G, H, and I) that did not occur in the lower viscosity wt and atet molecules. PDP clustering methods and subsequent conformational classification applied to the first residue (mannose) of the side chain permitted a determination of side-chain orientation. Comparison of all three molecules indicated a larger population of side-chain conformational families in less direct backbone contact for the wt molecule than either of the variant molecules (natet/atet) suggesting that the side chains in the wt are more flexible. Thus, a major conformational difference between the high viscosity natet and the lower viscosities of the wt/atet is the increased amount of open helical backbone in the natet. In addition, the significant difference between the higher viscosity wt and the lower viscosity atet is the increase side-chain flexibility in the wt. We hypothesize that conformational differences of this kind could form a partial explanation of the observed differences in viscosity between these xanthan-like polymers.