Statistical analysis of the residue separation between a pair of ionizable side chains within 4 Å of each other was performed on a set of 1560 non-homologous PDB structures. We found that the frequency of pairs of like charges (i.e., pairs consisting of acidic residues Asp and Glu or pairs consisting of basic residues Arg and Lys) is two orders of magnitude lower than the pairs of oppositely charged residues (salt-bridges). We also found that for pairs of like charges the distribution is skewed dramatically towards short residue separation (<3). On the basis of these observations, we hypothesize that at short residue separation the repulsion between charges does not contribute much to the protein stability and the effects are largely dominated by the long range charge–charge interactions with other ionizable groups in the protein molecule. To test this hypothesis, we incorporated various pairs of charged residues at position 63 and 64 of ubiquitin and compared the stabilities of these variants. We also performed calculations of the expected changes in the charge–charge interactions. A very good correlation between experimental changes in the stability of ubiquitin variants, and changes in the energy of charge–charge interactions provides support for the hypothesis that a pair of ionizable residues next to each other in sequence modulates protein stability via long range charge–charge interactions with the rest of the protein. Proteins 2011; © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.