Leucine-rich repeats are short sequence motifs present in a number of proteins with diverse functions and cellular locations. All proteins containing these repeats are thought to be involved in protein-protein interactions. The crystal structure of ribonuclease inhibitor protein has revealed that leucine-rich repeats correspond to beta-alpha structural units. These units are arranged so that they form a parallel beta-sheet with one surface exposed to solvent, so that the protein acquires an unusual, nonglobular shape. These two features may be responsible for the protein-binding functions of proteins containing leucine-rich repeats.