The sequence of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) has been circularly permuted by introducing new chain termini into interhelical loops and by constraining the N- and C-terminal helices, either by direct linkage of the termini (L0) or by substitution of the amino-terminal 10-residue segment with a seven-residue linker composed of glycines and serines (L1). All the circularly permuted G-CSFs (cpG-CSFs) were able to fold into biologically active structures that could recognize the G-CSF receptor. CD and NMR spectroscopy demonstrated that all of the cpG-CSFs adopted a fold similar to that of the native molecule, except for one [cpG-CSF(L1)[142/141]] which has the new termini at the end of loop 34 with the shorter L1 linker. All of the cpG-CSFs underwent cooperative unfolding by urea, and a systematically lower free energy change (DeltaGurea) was observed for molecules with the shorter L1 linker than for those molecules in which the original termini were directly linked (the L0 linker). The thermodynamic stability of the cpG-CSFs toward urea was found to correlate with their relative ability to stimulate proliferation of G-CSF responsive cells. Taken together, these results indicate that the G-CSF sequence is robust in its ability to undergo linear rearrangement and adopt a biologically active conformation. The choice of linker, with its effect on stability, seems to be important for realizing the full biological activity of the three-dimensional structure. The breakpoint and linker together are the ultimate determinants of the structural and biological profiles of these circularly permuted cytokines. In the following paper [McWherter, C. A., et al. (1999) Biochemistry 38, 4564-4571], McWherter and co-workers have used circularly permuted G-CSF sequences to engineer chimeric dual IL-3 and G-CSF receptor agonists in which the relative spatial orientation of the receptor agonist domains is varied. Interpreting the differences in activity for the chimeric molecules in terms of the connectivity between domains depends critically on the results reported here for the isolated cpG-CSF domains.