α,β-Dehydroamino acid esters occur in nature. To investigate their conformational properties, a systematic theoretical analysis was performed on the model molecules Ac-ΔXaa-OMe [ΔXaa = ΔAla, (E)-ΔAbu, (Z)-ΔAbu, ΔVal] at the B3LYP/6-311+ + G(d,p) level in the gas phase as well as in chloroform and water solutions with the self-consistent reaction field-polarisable continuum model method. The Fourier transform IR spectra in CCl4 and CHCl3 have been analysed as well as the analogous solid state conformations drawn from The Cambridge Structural Database. The ΔAla residue has a considerable tendency to adopt planar conformations C5 (ϕ, ψ ≈ − 180°, 180°) and β2 (ϕ, ψ ≈ − 180°, 0°), regardless of the environment. The ΔVal residue prefers the conformation β2 (ϕ, ψ ≈ − 120°, 0°) in a low polar environment, but the conformations α (ϕ, ψ ≈ − 55°, 35°) and β (ϕ, ψ ≈ − 55°, 145°) when the polarity increases. The ΔAbu residues reveal intermediate properties, but their conformational dispositions depend on configuration of the side chain of residue: (E)-ΔAbu is similar to ΔAla, whereas (Z)-ΔAbu to ΔVal. Results indicate that the low-energy conformation β2 is the characteristic feature of dehydroamino acid esters. The studied molecules constitute conformational patterns for dehydroamino acid esters with various side chain substituents in either or both Z and E positions. Copyright © 2011 European Peptide Society and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.