The antibiotic virginiamycin is a combination of two molecules, virginiamycin M(1) (VM1) and virginiamycin S(1) (VS1) or analogues, which function synergistically by binding to bacterial ribosomes and inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis. Both VM1 and VS1 dissolve poorly in water and are soluble in more hydrophobic solvents. We have recently reported that the 3D conformation of VM1 in CDCl(3) solution differs markedly from the conformation bound to a VM1 binding enzyme and to 50S ribosomes as found by X-ray crystallographic studies. We now report the results of further NMR studies and subsequent molecular modeling of VM1 dissolved in CD(3)CN/H(2)O and compare the structure with that in CD(3)OD and CDCl(3). The conformations of VM1 in CD(3)CN/H(2)O, CD(3)OD and CDCl(3) differ substantially from one another and from the bound form, with the aqueous form most like the bound structure. We propose that the flexibility of the VM1 molecule in response to environmental conditions contributes to its effectiveness as an antibiotic.