Human polymorphic epithelial mucins (PEM) are complex glycoproteins that are associated with breast and ovarian carcinomas. The PEM core protein consists of variable numbers of a tandem repeat sequence which contains a short antigenic hydrophilic region (Pro1-Asp-Thr-Arg-Pro-Ala-Pro7). High-field n.m.r. studies undertaken on antigenic 20- and 11-amino acid fragments of the PEM core protein in dimethyl sulphoxide have identified a type-I β-turn to be present in the region Pro1-Asp-Thr-Arg4. This region includes and overlaps the identified type-I (Asp2-Thr-Arg4) and type-II (Arg4-Pro-Ala6) epitopes of anti-PEM monoclonal antibodies. The studies indicate that the β-turn is stabilized by the presence of a salt-bridge interaction between Asp-2 and Arg-4. In order to probe the conformations accessible to the PEM peptides a computational study was undertaken independently on the peptide Pro-Asp-Thr-Arg-Pro using a modified Metropolis Monte Carlo algorithm. This study identified the n.m.r.-observed salt-bridge type-I β-turn as the major low-energy conformer. These results suggest that this structural motif may be involved in the immune recognition of PEM.