The synthesis of more than fifty 36-residue oligopeptide analogs of neuropeptide Y (NPY) and their affinity to human Y1 and Y2 receptors is described. Each amino acid of the natural sequence was replaced by L-alanine, the four alanine residues at position 12, 14, 18 and 23 were replaced by glycine. Additional residues were exchanged to closely related ones in order to characterize the prerequisites for binding. A combination of automated single and multiple peptide synthesis using fluoren-9-ylmethoxycarbonyl/tert-butoxy strategy was applied. The purified peptides were characterized by electrospray mass spectrometry, analytical HPLC and amino acid analysis. Binding was investigated by displacement of 125I-labelled neuropeptide Y from human neuroblastoma cell lines SK-N-MC and SMS-KAN. Whereas Pro2 and the integrity of the neuropeptide Y loop is important for the binding to the Y1 receptor, exchanges within the C-terminal helix affect the affinity to the Y2 receptor. The C-terminal pentapeptide amide is important for both receptors and probably represents the binding site. However, Arg33 and Arg35 may not be exchanged by L-alanine in the Y1 system, whereas Arg35 and Tyr36 are the most susceptible residues in the Y2 system. In order to distinguish between conformational effects and direct hormone/receptor interaction via the side chains of neuropeptide Y, circular dichroic studies of the alanine-containing peptides were performed and structure affinity relationships are discussed. Comparing the affinities of the neuropeptide Y analogs to Y1 and Y2 receptors significant differences were found for the two binding sites, which suggests a different active conformation of neuropeptide Y at the two subtypes of receptors. Using molecular dynamics calculations, two distinct conformations were identified which are in good agreement with the data obtained by structure/affinity investigations.