An analysis of the nature and distribution of disallowed Ramachandran conformations of amino acid residues observed in high resolution protein crystal structures has been carried out. A data set consisting of 110 high resolution, non-homologous, protein crystal structures from the Brookhaven Protein Data Bank was examined. The data set consisted of a total of 18,708 non-Gly residues, which were characterized on the basis of their backbone dihedral angles (phi, psi). Residues falling outside the defined "broad allowed limits" on the Ramachandran map were chosen and the reported B-factor value of the alpha-carbon atom was used to further select well defined disallowed conformations. The conformations of the selected 66 disallowed residues clustered in distinct regions of the Ramachandran map indicating that specific phi, psi angle distortions are preferred under compulsions imposed by local constraints. The distribution of various amino acid residues in the disallowed residue data set showed a predominance of small polar/charged residues, with bulky hydrophobic residues being infrequent. As a further check, for all the 66 cases non-hydrogen van der Waals short contacts in the protein structures were evaluated and compared with the ideal "Ala-dipeptide" constructed using disallowed dihedral angle (phi, psi) values. The analysis reveals that short contacts are eliminated in most cases by local distortions of bond angles. An analysis of the conformation of the identified disallowed residues in related protein structures reveals instances of conservation of unusual stereochemistry.