The three-dimensional structure of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-xL complexed to a 25-residue peptide from the death promoting region of Bad was determined using NMR spectroscopy. Although the overall structure is similar to Bcl-xL bound to a 16-residue peptide from the Bak protein (Sattler et al., 1997), the Bad peptide forms additional interactions with Bcl-xL. However, based upon site-directed mutagenesis experiments, these additional contacts do not account for the increased affinity of the Bad 25-mer for Bcl-xL compared to the Bad 16-mer. Rather, the increased helix propensity of the Bad 25-mer is primarily responsible for its greater affinity for Bcl-xL. Based on this observation, a pair of 16-residue peptides were designed and synthesized that were predicted to have a high helix propensity while maintaining the interactions important for complexation with Bcl-xL. Both peptides showed an increase in helix propensity compared to the wild-type and exhibited an enhanced affinity for Bcl-xL.