The presence of bound water in the solution structure of the IgG binding domain of streptococcal protein G has been investigated by nuclear magnetic resonance using three-dimensional 1H rotating frame Overhauser 1H-15N multiple quantum coherence spectroscopy. The backbone amide protons of three residues, Ala20, Gln32 and Tyr33, are found to be in close proximity to bound water. Examination of the three-dimensional structure of the IgG binding domain indicates that in the vicinity of these three residues there are no backbone groups that do not already participate in hydrogen bonding and there are no suitably placed side-chain groups available for hydrogen bonding with water. As the lifetime of the bound water detected in this nuclear magnetic resonance experiment is greater than about one nanosecond, it is likely that the two bound water molecules participate in a bifurcating hydrogen bonding network comprising a CO-NH hydrogen bonded pair, such that the water molecule accepts a hydrogen bond from the NH proton and donates one to the carbonyl oxygen with the result that the amide proton is involved in a three center hydrogen bond. On the basis of the structure, one water molecule participates in such an interaction with the Ala20(NH)-Met1(CO) hydrogen bonded pair at the beginning of an anti-parallel beta-sheet, and the other with the Tyr33(NH)-Val29(CO) hydrogen bonded pair in the single alpha-helix. The latter, which is external and solvent accessible, is associated with a distortion in the alpha-helix centered around Tyr33 which consists of a significant increase in the CO(i-4)-N(i) and CO(i-4)-NH(i) distances relative to those in the rest of the helix, as well as a significant departure in the phi, psi angles of Tyr33 relative to regular helical geometry. Such solvent induced distortions in alpha-helices have been previously noticed in crystal structures and were postulated as possible folding intermediates for helical structures. The present observation of this phenomenon in solution indicates, however, that these water molecules are tightly bound and represent an integral part of the protein framework.