It is hypothesized that infectious prions are generated as the cellular form of the prion protein (PrP(C)) undergoes pronounced conformational change under the direction of an infectious PrP(Sc) template. Conversion to the infectious conformer is particularly associated with major structural rearrangement in the central portion of the protein (residues 90-120), which has an extended flexible structure in the PrP(C) isoform. Using a panel of recombinant antibodies reactive with different parts of PrP, we show that equivalent major structural rearrangements occur spontaneously in this region of PrP immobilized on a surface. In contrast, regions more towards the termini of the protein remain relatively unaltered. The rearrangements occur even under conditions where individual PrP molecules should not contact one another. The propensity of specific unstructured regions of PrP to spontaneously undergo large and potentially deleterious conformational changes may have important implications for prion biology.