Amyloid beta-protein 42 plays an important role in the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease. Familial mutations have identified the glutamate residue 22 as a hotspot with regard to peptide neurotoxicity. We introduce an approach to study the influence of systematic sidechain modification at this residue, employing chirality as a structural probe. Circular dichroism experiments reveal that charge-preserving alterations of the amino acid sidechain attenuate the characteristic random coil to β-sheet transition associated with the wildtype peptide. Removal of the negative charge from residue 22, a trait observed with all known familial mutations at this residue, gives rise to a peptide with limited random coil propensity and high β-sheet characteristics. Our approach can be extended to other residues of Aβ, as well as further amyloidogenic peptides. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.