Peptides binding to HLA-A11 contain a hydrophobic or a small polar amino acid at position 2 and a lysine at the carboxy terminus. Synthetic peptides carrying natural and unnatural amino acids in position 2 were used to determine the requirements for formation of stable HLA-A11/peptide complexes. By kinetic analysis we demonstrate that a stereospecific interaction between the side chain residue in position 2 and a subsite of pocket B is required to obtain stable HLA/peptide complexes. This specific interaction is mediated by a methyl group or by an ethyl group bound to the asymmetric Cbeta atom with the correct configuration. Experiments performed with different peptide sequences suggest that the presence of adequate anchor residues may be sufficient to produce stable HLA/peptide complexes.