A paramagnetic NMR study of the structure of the calcium-glycocholate complex in submicellar solution, utilizing dysprosium as an isomorphous lanthanide replacement of calcium, is presented. The dysprosium-induced relaxation rate (1/T1) enhancements of certain glycocholate protons have been used to estimate internuclear distances between these protons and the metal ion. An approximation to calculate the intrinsic relaxation rate (l/T1) enhancements for a nondilute paramagnetic solution is given in the Appendix. From these data, and analysis based on conformation averaging and minimum energy conformations, a molecular model of the dysprosium-glycocholate complex in submicellar aqueous solution has been constructed. In this model the metal ion has a unidentate, first-sphere interaction with the proximal oxygen atom of the glycine carboxyl. The metal ion has second-sphere interactions with the peptide bond carbonyl oxygen (3.6 A) and the distal carboxyl oxygen (4.4 A). The metal ion to hydroxyl oxygen distances (8.4-12.4 A) are not compatible with any metal ion to hydroxyl coordination. The side chain appears to exist in one predominant conformation. All six oxygen atoms of glycocholate, the peptide bond carbonyl, the carboxyl group, and the hydroxyl groups are on the a face of the bile salt molecule. On the basis of these features we conclude that in the submicellar state the solution structure of the dysprosium-glycocholate complex displays a metal ion enhanced segregation of polar versus nonpolar groups to the two separate faces of the molecule, which may result in a facilitated hydrophobic interaction of different complex units. © 1987, American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.