Sequence repeats constituting the telomeric regions of chromosomes are known to adopt a variety of unusual structures, consisting of a G tetraplex stem and short stretches of thymines or thymines and adenines forming loops over the stem. Detailed model building and molecular mechanics studies have been carried out for these telomeric sequences to elucidate different types of loop orientations and possible conformations of thymines in the loop. The model building studies indicate that a minimum of two thymines have to be interspersed between guanine stretches to form folded-back structures with loops across adjacent strands in a G tetraplex (both over the small as well as large groove), while the minimum number of thymines required to build a loop across the diagonal strands in a G tetraplex is three. For two repeat sequences, these hairpins, resulting from different types of folding, can dimerize in three distinct ways—i.e., with loops across adjacent strands and on same side, with loops across adjacent strands and on opposite sides, and with loops across diagonal strands and on opposite sides—to form hairpin dimer structures. Energy minimization studies indicate that all possible hairpin dimers have very similar total energy values, though different structures are stabilized by different types of interactions. When the two loops are on the same side, in the hairpin dimer structures of d(G4TnG4), the thymines form favorably stacked tetrads in the loop region and there is interloop hydrogen bonding involving two hydrogen bonds for each thymine–thymine pair. Our molecular mechanics calculations on various folded-back as well as parallel tetraplex structures of these telomeric sequences provide a theoretical rationale for the experimentally observed feature that the presence of intervening thymine stretches stabilizes folded-back structures, while isolated stretches of guanines adopt a parallel tetraplex structure. © 1994 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.