Alkaline hydrolysis of corneal proteins in the alkali-injured eye releases N-acetyl-proline-glycine-proline (Ac-Pro-Gly-Pro-OH) among other peptides. It has been shown that this tripeptide is a neutrophil chemoattractant. Existing data suggest that the release of this peptide is the catalytic event for early neutrophil invasion of the cornea leading to corneal ulcers. In order to design inhibitors of this tripeptide chemoattractant that would block neutrophil invasion and diminish corneal ulcers, we studied the solution properties of this tripeptide by NMR spectroscopy and compared this peptide to Ac-Pro-Gly-OH (a weaker chemoattractant), and to Ac-Pro-OH (inactive). The NMR data were consistent with Ac-Pro-Gly-Pro-OH existing in solution as a mixture of four isomers with different cis and trans conformations about the two X-proline amide bonds. The isomer with two trans conformations (trans-trans) was the most dominant (41%) in aqueous solution. This was followed by the isomers with mixed cis and trans conformations (trans-cis, 26% and cis-trans, 20%). The isomer with two cis conformations (cis-cis) was the least favored (13%). The populations of these isomers were investigated in DMSO and they were similar to those reported in aqueous solutions except that the ordering of the trans-cis and cis-trans isomers were reversed. NMR NH temperature coefficients and nuclear Overhauser effect (NOE) measurements as well as CD spectroscopy were used to demonstrate that the four isomers exist primarily in an extended conformation with little hydrogen bonding. The available (NOE) information was used with molecular dynamics calculations to construct a dominant solution conformation for each isomer of the tripeptide. This information will serve as a model for the design of peptide and nonpeptide inhibitors of the chemoattractant. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.