The 18-residue fragment of bovine S-antigen, corresponding to amino acid positions 303-320, is highly immunogenic and is known to induce experimental autoimmune uveitis. The solution conformation of this immunogenic peptide, known as peptide M, was studied by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and by circular dichroism. In the pH range between approximately 4 and 9.5, peptide M has a strong tendency to form macromolecular assemblies in which it adopts an intermolecular β-sheet structure. The intermolecular β-sheets are stabilized by ionic interactions ("salt bridges") between the carboxylate groups and basic residues of the neighboring peptide molecules. These interactions can be disrupted by neutralization of either acidic (pH range below 4) or basic residues (pH range above 9.5) or by elevated hydrostatic pressure. The secondary structure of the peptide under conditions favoring the monomeric state appears to be a mixture of unordered structure and β-sheets. The present data are consistent with a recently proposed model [Sette, A., Buns, S., Colon, S., Smith, J. A., Miles, C., & Grey, H. M. (1987) Nature 328, 395-399], which assumes that certain immunogenic peptides adopt an extended β-type conformation in which they are "sandwiched" between the major histocompatibility complex and the T-cell receptor.