Various conformational forms of the archetypal serpin human alpha 1proteinase inhibitor (alpha 1PI), including ordered polymers, active and inactive monomers, and heterogeneous aggregates, have been produced by refolding from mild denaturing conditions. These forms presumably originate by different folding pathways during renaturation, under the influence of the A and C sheets of the molecule. Because alpha 1PI contains only two Trp residues, at positions 194 and 238, it is amenable to fluorescence quenching resolved spectra and red-edge excitation measurements of the Trp environment. Thus, it is possible to define the conformation of the various forms based on the observed fluorescent properties of each of the Trp residues measured under a range of conditions. We show that denaturation in GuHCl, or thermal denaturation in Tris, followed by renaturation, leads to the formation of polymers that contain solvent-exposed Trp 238, which we interpret as ordered head-to-tail polymers (A-sheet polymers). However, thermal denaturation in citrate leads to shorter polymers where some of the Trp 238 residues are not solvent accessible, which we interpret as polymers capped by head-to-head interactions via the C sheet. The latter treatment also generates monomers thought to represent a latent form, but in which the environment of Trp 238 is occluded by ionized groups. These data indicate that the folding pathway of alpha 1PI, and presumably other serpins, is sensitive to solvent composition that affects the affinity of the reactive site loop for the A sheet or the C sheet.