We have recently proposed a computational model of the N. gonorrhoeae pilus fiber based on the high resolution X-ray crystal structure of the component protein pilin, combined with available biophysical and genetic data [Parge et al. (1995) Nature 378, 32-38]. In parallel, we have used anti-peptide antibodies to distinguish buried and exposed regions of pilin within the assembled fiber [Forest et al. (1996) Infect. Immun. 64, 644-652]. This mini-review addresses the properties of the current pilus model and the locations of end-exposed epitopes. The fiber forms a three-layered structure of coiled conserved alpha helices surrounded by beta-sheet, with the hypervariable region as the most highly exposed portion. Overall the pilus model developed from diffraction and antibody mapping is expected to be representative of type-4 pili with general implications for type-4 assembly, function, and interactions with other proteins and cell membranes.