As(III) displays a wide range of effects in cellular chemistry. Surprisingly, the structural consequences of arsenic binding to peptides and proteins are poorly understood. This study utilizes model alpha-helical peptides containing two cysteine (Cys) residues in various sequential arrangements and spatial locations to study the structural effects of arsenic binding. With i, and i + 1, i + 2, or i + 3 arrangements, CD spectroscopy shows that As(III) coordination causes helical destabilization when Cys residues are located at central or C-terminal regions of the helix. Interestingly, arsenic binding to i, i + 3 positions results in the elimination of helical structure and the formation of a relatively stable alternate fold. In contrast, helical stabilization is observed for peptides containing i, i + 4 Cys residues, with corresponding pseudo pairwise interaction energies (Delta G(pw) degrees) of -1.0 and -0.7 kcal/mol for C-terminal and central placements, respectively. Binding affinities and association rate constants show that As(III) binding is comparatively insensitive to the location of the Cys residues within these moderately stable helices. These data demonstrate that As(III) binding can be a significant modulator of helical secondary structure.