Lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] is assembled via an initial noncovalent interaction between apolipoprotein B100 (apoB) and apolipoprotein(a) [apo(a)] that facilitates the formation of a disulfide bond between the two proteins. We previously reported that a lysine-rich, alpha-helical peptide spanning human apoB amino acids 4372-4392 was an effective inhibitor of Lp(a) assembly in vitro. To identify the important structural features required for inhibitory action, new variants of the apoB4372-4392 peptide were investigated. Introduction of a central leucine to proline substitution abolished the alpha-helical structure of the peptide and disrupted apo(a) binding and inhibition of Lp(a) formation. Substitution of hydrophobic residues in the apoB4372-4392 peptide disrupted apo(a) binding and inhibition of Lp(a) assembly without disrupting the alpha-helical structure. Substitution of all four lysine residues in the peptide with arginine decreased the IC50 from 40 microM to 5 microM . Complexing of the arginine-substituted peptide to dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine improved its activity further, yielding an IC50 of 1 microM. We conclude that the alpha-helical structure of apoB4372-4392, in combination with hydrophobic residues at the lipid/water interface, is crucial for its interaction with apo(a). Furthermore, the interaction of apoB4372-4392 with apo(a) is not lysine specific, because substitutions with arginine result in a more effective inhibitor.