The influenza matrix protein (M1) forms a protein layer under the viral membrane and is essential for viral stability and integrity. M1 mediates the encapsidation of the viral RNPs into the viral membrane by its membrane and RNP-binding activities. In order to understand the roles of M1-M1 protein interactions in forming the M1 layer, X-ray crystallographic studies of a M1 fragment (1-162) were carried out at neutral pH and compared with an acidic pH structure. At neutral pH the asymmetric unit was a stacked dimer of M1. A long molecular ribbon of neutral stacked dimers was formed by translation as dictated by the P1 space group. The elongated ribbon had a positively charged stripe on one side of the ribbon. A similar M1-M1 stacking interface was also found in the acidic asymmetric unit. However, within the acidic stacked dimer the molecules were not straight, but rotated in relation to each other by slightly changing the M1-M1 stacking interface. The acidic structure possessed an additional M1-M1 twofold interface. Protein docking confirmed that the M1-M1 stacking and M1-M1 twofold interfaces could be used to form a double ribbon of M1 molecules. By iterative repetition of the rotated relationship among the M1 molecules, a helix of M1 was generated. These studies suggest that M1 has the ability to form straight or bent elongated ribbons and helices. These oligomers are consistent with previous electron microscopic studies of M1, which demonstrated that isolated M1 formed elongated and flexible ribbons when isolated from what appeared to be a helical shell of M1 in the influenza virus. © 2001 Academic Press.