The peptides [Glu1,8,Leu11,17] 18A and [Glu4,9,Leu11,17] reverse-18A are 18-residue peptides designed to form amphipathic helices with opposite charge distribution; [Glu1,8,Leu11,17] 18A having positively charged residues at the hydrophobic/hydrophilic interface. Both [Glu1,8,Leu11,17] 18 A and [Glu4,9,Leu11,17] reverse-18A strongly disrupt the bilayer structure as indicated by the relatively narrow lipid 1H and 31P NMR peaks. In addition, the 1H chemical shift of the quaternary ammonium methyl groups indicates that [Glu1,8, Leu11,17] 18A forms smaller lipoprotein particles with dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC) than does [Glu4,9,Leu11,17] reverse-18A. However, motional properties of the lipid head group indicate that no specific salt bridges are formed between the phospholipid head group and the side chains of polar amino acids of either of the two peptides. In addition, the acyl chain conformation for the DMPC complexes with [Glu1,8,Leu11,17] 18A and with [Glu4,9,Leu11,17] reverse-18A are indistinguishable by the criterion of IR spectroscopy. The 2H linewidth of the solvent 2H2O remains narrower in frozen solutions of the DMPC-[Glu1,8,Leu11,17] 18A complexes suggesting the presence of more unfrozen bound water in this casae. The two peptides exhibit many similarities in their interaction with lipids. However, [Glu1,8,Leu11,17] 18A can more readily lyse vesicles and activate lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase. These differences do not appear to result from differences in specific charge interactions between the lipid and peptide but may be manifested through differences in hydration properties.