Amide-amide hydrogen bonds have been implicated in directing protein folding and enhancing protein stability. Inversion transfer (13)C NMR spectroscopy and IR spectroscopy were used to compare the ability of various amide solvents and of water to alter the rate of the cis-trans isomerization of the prolyl peptide bond of Ac-Gly-[β,δ-(13)C]Pro-OMe and the amide I vibrational mode of [(13)C=O]Ac-Pro-OMe. The results indicate that secondary amides are significantly weaker hydrogen bond donors than is formamide or water. These results are most consistent with models for protein folding in which the formation of secondary structure is a cooperative process that follows hydrophobic collapse. These results also suggest that a hydrogen bond between a main-chain oxygen and an asparagine or glutamine sidechain may contribute more to protein stability than does a main-chain-main-chain hydrogen bond.