Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) can be used to monitor conformational changes of proteins in solution based on the charge state distribution (CSD) of the corresponding gas-phase ions, although relatively few studies of acidic proteins have been reported. Here, we have compared the CSD and solution structure of recombinant Vibrio harveyi acyl carrier protein (rACP), a small acidic protein whose secondary and tertiary structure can be manipulated by pH, fatty acylation, and site-directed mutagenesis. Circular dichroism and intrinsic fluorescence demonstrated that apo-rACP adopts a folded helical conformation in aqueous solution below pH 6 or in 50% acetonitrile/0.1% formic acid, but is unfolded at neutral and basic pH values. A rACP mutant, in which seven conserved acidic residues were replaced with their corresponding neutral amides, was folded over the entire pH range of 5 to 9. However, under the same solvent conditions, both wild type and mutant ACPs exhibited similar CSDs (6(+)-9(+) species) at all pH values. Covalent attachment of myristic acid to the phosphopantetheine prosthetic group of rACP, which is known to stabilize a folded conformation in solution, also had little influence on its CSD in either positive or negative ion modes. Overall, our results are consistent with ACP as a "natively unfolded" protein in a dynamic conformational equilibrium, which allows access to (de)protonation events during the electrospray process.