Granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) activity has been linked to pro-inflammatory effects in autoimmune syndromes, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Thus GM-CSF mimetics with antagonist activity might play a therapeutic role in these diseases. The human GM-CSF core structure consists of a four α-helix bundle, and GM-CSF activity is controlled by its binding to a two-subunit receptor. A number of residues located on the B and C helices of GM-CSF are postulated to interact with the alpha chain of the GM-CSF receptor (GM-CSFR). Several approaches have been successfully utilized to develop peptide mimetics of this site, including peptides from the native sequence, a peptide derived from a recombinant antibody (rAb) light chain which mimicked GM-CSF receptor binding activity, and structurally guided de novo design. Analysis of the rAb light chain had suggested mimicry of GM-CSF with residues mostly contributed by the CDR I region. Key residues involved in CDR I peptide / GM-CSFR binding were identified by truncation and alteration of individual residues, while the structural elements required to antagonize the biological action of GM-CSF were separately tested in binding and inhibitory activity assays of multiple cyclic analogues. A peptide designed to retain the loop conformation of the CDR I region of the rAb light c hain competed with GM-CSF for both antibody and receptor binding, but the role of specific residues in antibody versus receptor binding differed markedly. These studies suggest that structural analysis of peptide mimetics can reveal differences in receptor and antibody binding, perhaps including key interactions that impact binding kinetics. Peptide mimetics of other four-helix bundle cytokines are reviewed, including helical and reverse turn mimetics of helical structures. Use of peptide mimetics coupled with structural and kinetic analysis provides a powerful approach to identifying important receptor-ligand interactions, which implications for rational design of novel therapeutics.