The conformations of two 17‐residue peptide analogues derived from the C‐terminal sequence of pigeon cytochrome c (native sequence = KAERADLIAYLKQATAK) were examined in aqueous and lipid environments by CD spectroscopy. The two analogues, KKLLKKLIAYLKQATAK (K peptide), and EELLEELIAYLKQATAK (E peptide), were made amphipathic with respect to helical segregation by substituting a 6‐residue sequence at the N‐terminus of the native peptide. Their structures were compared to the native peptide under aqueous conditions of varying pH and temperature, and in the presence of liposomes composed of phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine in the ratio of 9:1. The results indicated that the native peptide remains unstructured under all the conditions examined even though this region of the native molecule is surface exposed and helical. The E peptide, however, was helical under aqueous conditions at 25°C from pH 2–10 with a maximum helicity at pH 4 (54% helix from analysis of CD data). The ellipticity of the E peptide at pH 4 and 8 was concentration dependent, indicating an aggregation phenomenon. In studies in which the CD spectrum was measured at different temperatures, the E peptide became more helical at lower temperatures at pH 4 but not at pH 8. Upon interaction with a lipid membrane in the form of liposomes, there appeared to be a slight destabilization in the structure of the E peptide. The K peptide in an aqueous environment behaved like the native peptide in that it was structureless at all pHs and temperatures examined. In the presence of liposomes, however, this peptide had a high helical content (75% helix from analysis of CD data). These findings suggest that while stabilization of the helix dipole with negative charges at the N‐terminus are important in inducing helical conformation in the E peptide, hydrophobic interactions created during aggregation appear to provide the principal stabilizing force. The results with the K peptide demonstrate that the positive N‐terminal sequence of this peptide is able to interact with the negatively charged head groups in the phospholipid membrane in such a fashion as to stabilize a helical structure that is not apparent in an aqueous environment alone. Copyright © 1990 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.