A new motif of three-dimensional (3D) protein structure is described, called the cis-Pro touch-turn. In this four-residue, three-peptide motif, the central peptide is cis. Residue 2, which precedes the proline, has ϕ, ψ values either in the “prePro region” of the Ramachandran plot near −130°, 75° or in the Lα region near +60°, +60°. The Cα(1)–Cα(4) distance is 4–5 Å and the two flanking peptides lie parallel to one another, making van der Waals contact rather than a hydrogen bond. Apparently, this arrangement is locally unfavorable and therefore rare, usually occurring only if needed for biological function. Of the 12 examples in a 500-protein database, cis-Pro touch-turns are found at the catalytic sites of pectate lyase, Ni-Fe hydrogenase, glucoamylase, xylanase, and opine dehydrogenase and at the primary binding sites of ribonuclease H, type I DNA polymerase, ribotoxin, and phage gene 3 protein. In each of these protein families, the touch-turns serve different roles; their functional importance is supported by conservation and mutagenesis data. In analyzing the conservation patterns of these 3D motifs, new methods for in-depth quality evaluation of the structural bioinformatic data are employed to distinguish between significant exceptions and errors. Proteins 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.