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We propose that arginine side chains often play a previously unappreciated general structural role in the maintenance of tertiary structure in proteins, wherein the positively charged guanidinium group forms multiple hydrogen bonds to backbone carbonyl oxygens. Using as a criterion for a “structural” arginine one that forms 4 or more hydrogen bonds to 3 or more backbone carbonyl oxygens, we have used molecular graphics to locate arginines of interest in 4 proteins: Arg 180 in Thermus thermophilus manganese superoxide dismutase, Arg 254 in human carbonic anhydrase II, Arg 31 in Streptomyces rubiginosus xylose isomerase, and Arg 313 in Rhodospirillum rubrum ribulose‐1,5‐bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase. Arg 180 helps to mold the active site channel of superoxide dismutase, whereas in each of the other enzymes the structural arginine is buried in the “mantle” (i.e., inside, but near the surface) of the protein interior well removed from the active site, where it makes 5 hydrogen bonds to 4 backbone carbonyl oxygens. Using a more relaxed criterion of 3 or more hydrogen bonds to 2 or more backbone carbonyl oxygens, arginines that play a potentially important structural role were found in yeast enolase, Bacillus stearothermophilus glyceraldehyde‐3‐phosphate dehydrogenase, bacteriophage T4 and human lysozymes, Enteromorpha prolifera plastocyanin, HIV‐1 protease, Trypanosoma brucei brucei and yeast triosephosphate isomerases, and Escherichia coli trp aporepressor (but not trp repressor or the trp repressor/operator complex). In addition to helping form the active site funnel in superoxide dismutase, the structural arginines found in this study play such diverse roles as stapling together 3 strands of backbone from different regions of the primary sequence, and tying α‐helix to α‐helix, βturn to β‐turn, and subunit to subunit. Copyright © 1994 The Protein Society