Crystallographic and associated biochemical and structural studies are in progress on the fiber-forming pilin proteins of the gonococcal pilus. Preparative scale purification procedures have been developed for the gonococcal pilin protein, which appear generally applicable to bacterial pilins. For three gonococcal pilin protein strains, we have obtained both reassembled pilus fibers and three-dimensional crystals. One needle-shaped crystal form of gonococcal C30 pilin diffracts beyond 3 A resolution using synchrotron x-ray radiation. A diffraction data set to 3.5 A resolution has been collected on these needle-shaped crystals (lattice spacings a = 125.4(3) b = 120.4(3), c = 26.61(4) A) in which the packing arrangement of the pilin subunits appears to resemble that seen in the pilus fibers using electron microscopy. X-ray diffraction data confirm our proposed model for the overall polypeptide fold of a pilin subunit, which is an antiparallel 4-alpha helix bundle similar to tobacco mosaic virus coat protein and myohemerythrin.