Carbonyl-carbonyl n→πinteractions where a lone pair (n) of the oxygen atom of a carbonyl group is delocalized over the πorbital of a nearby carbonyl group have attracted a lot of attention in recent years due to their ability to affect the 3D structure of small molecules, polyesters, peptides, and proteins. In this paper, we report the discovery of a "reciprocal" carbonyl-carbonyl interaction with substantial back and forth n→πand π→πelectron delocalization between neighboring carbonyl groups. We have carried out experimental studies, analyses of crystallographic databases and theoretical calculations to show the presence of this interaction in both small molecules and proteins. In proteins, these interactions are primarily found in polyproline II (PPII) helices. As PPII are the most abundant secondary structures in unfolded proteins, we propose that these local interactions may have implications in protein folding. © 2017 The Author(s).