The possible conformations of higher gangliosides (GD3, GT1a. GT1b, GQ1b) have been determined by computing their potential energy using semi-empirical potential functions. The favoured conformation of the disialic acid fragment in these gangliosides is independent of its position (internal or terminal). The favoured conformations of these gangliosides have also been correlated to their biological activity. The results suggest that tetanus toxin and sendai virus may have a large binding site which can accommodate at least four sugar residues.