The fatal autosomal recessive disease cystic fibrosis (CF) is caused by mutations in the gene which encodes the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). Many of these disease-causing mutations, including the deletion of F508 (delta F508) which accounts for approximately 70% of the disease alleles, occur in one of the two consensus nucleotide binding sequences. Peptide studies have directly demonstrated that the N-terminal nucleotide binding sequences bind adenine nucleotides. Structurally, circular dichroism spectropolarimetry indicates that this region of CFTR assumes a beta-stranded structure in solution. The delta F508 mutation causes a diminution in the amount of beta-stranded structure and a concomitant increase in the amount of random coil structure present, indicating that either the mutant peptide has a different native structure or that the conformational equilibrium is shifted toward a more disordered form. Furthermore, the mutant peptide is more sensitive to denaturation, indicating that delta F508 is a stability, or protein-folding mutant. Here we review these results and discuss their implications for interpreting the behavior of delta F508 in situ and for the rational design of new CF drugs.