Vancomycin, an important antibiotic against medically relevant gram-positive bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, exerts its antibacterial effects by binding with moderate affinity to the C-terminal Lys-D-Ala-D-Ala motif (Kaa) of the bacterial cell wall peptide precursor. Essential for Kaa binding to vancomcyin is the free-carboxyl group on the terminal D-Ala in Kaa. In efforts to identify other Kaa-based peptides which bind vancomycin with higher affinity, we utilized our one-bead-one-compound (OBOC) combinatorial library approach, a method which has been widely used to discover highly specific ligands against various receptors. In standard OBOC peptide libraries, the C-terminal end of the synthesized peptide is tethered to a solid-support/resin, however, this study reports development of a synthetic strategy for generating OBOC peptide libraries with a free D-Ala-D-Ala carboxyl end. We screened these "OBOC inverted" peptide libraries against vancomycin, and discovered a series of peptide ligands with strong consensus, which bind vancomycin. To further optimize these ligands, two highly focused Kaa-containing OBOC combinatorial peptidomimetic libraries were designed, synthesized, and screened against vancomycin under more stringent conditions. Peptidomimetic ligands which bind vancomycin with higher affinity than Kaa were identified. The dissociation constant of one of these ligands, Lys(Ac)-HOCit-Glu-Cha-Lys(3,5-dihydroxybenzoyl)-D-Ala-D-Ala (9), as determined by surface plasmon resonance, was 1.03 microM, roughly a 50-fold improvement in affinity compared to Kaa (K(D) = 50 microM).