The interaction of a chemically synthesized 25-residue signal peptide of LamB protein from Escherichia coli with phospholipids has been studied with a film balance technique. The conformation, orientation, and concentration of the peptides in lipid monolayers have been determined from polarized infrared spectroscopy, ultraviolet spectroscopy, and assay of 14C-labeled peptide in transferred films. When the LamB signal peptide is injected into the subphase under a phosphatidylethanolamine-phosphatidylglycerol monolayer at low initial pressure, insertion of a portion of the peptide into the lipid film is evidenced by a rapid rise in film pressure. Spectroscopic results obtained on films transferred to quartz plates and Ge crystals show that the peptide is a mixture of α-helix and β-conformation where the long axis of the α-helix penetrates the monolayer plane and the β-structure is coplanar with the film. By contrast, when peptide is injected under lipid at high initial pressure, no pressure rise is observed, and the spectroscopic results show the presence of only β-structure which is coplanar with the monolayer. The spectroscopic and radioassay results are all consistent with the picture of a peptide anchored to the monolayer through electrostatic binding with a helical portion inserted into the lipid region of the monolayer and a β-structure portion resident in the aqueous phase. The negative charges on the lipid molecules are roughly neutralized by the positive charges of the peptide. © 1989, American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.