The pressure stability of ribonuclease A and bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor has been investigated with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy in the presence of the disulfide bond reducing agent 2-mercaptoethanol. The secondary structure of the reduced proteins at high pressure (1 GPa) is not significantly different from the pressure-induced conformation of the native form. Upon decompression under reducing conditions, amorphous aggregates are formed. Such aggregates are not formed upon decompression of the native proteins. Our, data demonstrate that high pressure populates, and thus allows the potential characterization of highly aggregation-prone conformations. The relevance of these findings with regard to fibril formation is discussed and the possible role of conformational fluctuations of intermediates on the aggregation pathway is emphasized. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All-rights reserved.