A critical problem to overcome on HIV vaccine design is the variability among HIV strains. One strategy to solve this problem is the construction of multicomponent immunogens reflective of common HIV motifs. Currently, it is not known if these motifs should be based primarily on amino acid sequence or higher-order structure of the viral proteins of a combination of the two. In this paper, we report NMR-derived solution conformations for a sympathetic peptide taken from the C4 and V3 domains of HIV-1 CAN0A gp120 envelope protein. This peptide, designated T1-SP10CAN0(A), is compared to a recently reported C4-V3 peptide. T1-SP10RF(A) from the HIV-1 RF strain [de Lorimier et al. (1994) Biochemistry 33, 2055-2062], in terms of conformational features and immune responses in mice [Haynes et al. (1995) AIDS Res. Hum. Retroviruses 11, 211-221]. The T1 segment of 16 amino acids from the gp120 C4 domain is identical in both peptides and exhibits nascent helical character. The SP10 region, taken from the gp120 V3 loop, differs from that of T1-SP10RF(A) in both sequence and conformations. A reverse turn is observed at the conserved GPGX sequence. The rest of the Sp10 domain is extended with the exception of the last three residues which show evidence for a helical arrangement. Modeling of the turn region of the T1-SP10CAN0(A) peptide shows exposure of a continuous apolar stretch of side chains similar to that reported in the crystal structure of a V3 peptide from HIV-1 MN complexed with a monoclonal antibody [Rini et al. (1993) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 90, 6325-6329]. this hydrophobic patch is interrupted by a charged Lys residue in the T1-SP10RF(A) peptide. This observation suggests that the HIV-1 CAN0A and HIV-1 RF C4-V3 peptides can induce widely different anti-HIV antibodies. consistent with immunogenic results.