Peptide binding to MHC class II (MHCII) molecules is stabilized by hydrophobic anchoring and hydrogen bond formation. We view peptide binding as a process in which the peptide folds into the binding groove and to some extent the groove folds around the peptide. Our previous observation of cooperativity when analyzing binding properties of peptides modified at side chains with medium to high solvent accessibility is compatible with such a view. However, a large component of peptide binding is mediated by residues with strong hydrophobic interactions that bind to their respective pockets. If these reflect initial nucleation events they may be upstream of the folding process and not show cooperativity. To test whether the folding hypothesis extends to these anchor interactions, we measured dissociation and affinity to HLA-DR1 of an influenza hemagglutinin-derived peptide with multiple substitutions at major anchor residues. Our results show both negative and positive cooperative effects between hydrophobic pocket interactions. Cooperativity was also observed between hydrophobic pockets and positions with intermediate solvent accessibility, indicating that hydrophobic interactions participate in the overall folding process. These findings point out that predicting the binding potential of epitopes cannot assume additive and independent contributions of the interactions between major MHCII pockets and corresponding peptide side chains.