Many short synthetic peptides have now been shown to induce antibodies reactive with their cognate sequences in the intact folded protein. Aside from the usefulness of such antibodies as site-specific reagents, the frequency with which this recognition occurs has raised several theoretical issues, the central one being that of how an antibody to a short synthetic peptide, which represents one of the most disordered states of a site in a protein, can react with the more ordered version of the same sequence in the folded protein. This apparent paradox can be resolved if the target site on the protein approaches disorder or if the peptide in solution or on a carrier adopts, with significant frequency, a conformation compatible with that of the cognate site in the protein. Various studies already suggest that antigenic sites in proteins correspond to regions of high atomic mobility. We now show, using high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, that a nonapeptide selected by several monoclonal antibodies as the immunodominant site of a 36-amino-acid immunogen (residues 75-110 of influenza virus haemagglutinin) adopts a highly populated type-II reverse-turn conformation in water. This suggests that in this case the antibodies have selected a sequence possessing a conformational preference. Apart from helping us to understand immunological recognition, anti-peptide antibodies may provide reagents of sufficient precision for an immunological approach to the problem of protein folding.