The molecular conformation of the collagen triple helix confers strict amino acid sequence constraints, requiring a (Gly-X-Y)(n) repeating pattern and a high content of imino acids. The increasing family of collagens and proteins with collagenous domains shows the collagen triple helix to be a basic motif adaptable to a range of proteins and functions. Its rodlike domain has the potential for various modes of self-association and the capacity to bind receptors, other proteins, GAGs, and nucleic acids. High-resolution crystal structures obtained for collagen model peptides confirm the supercoiled triple helix conformation, and provide new information on hydrogen bonding patterns, hydration, sidechain interactions, and ligand binding. For several peptides, the helix twist was found to be sequence dependent, and such variation in helix twist may serve as recognition features or to orient the triple helix for binding. Mutations in the collagen triple-helix domain lead to a variety of human disorders. The most common mutations are single-base substitutions that lead to the replacement of one Gly residue, breaking the Gly-X-Y repeating pattern. A single Gly substitution destabilizes the triple helix through a local disruption in hydrogen bonding and produces a discontinuity in the register of the helix. Molecular information about the collagen triple helix and the effect of mutations will lead to a better understanding of function and pathology.