Biomolecular systems are able to respond to their chemical environment through reversible, selective, noncovalent intermolecular interactions. Typically, these interactions induce conformational changes that initiate a signalling cascade, allowing the regulation of biochemical pathways. In this paper, we describe an artificial molecular system that mimics this ability to translate selective noncovalent interactions into reversible conformational changes. An achiral but helical foldamer carrying a basic binding site interacts selectively with the most acidic member of a suite of chiral ligands. As a consequence of this noncovalent interaction, a global absolute screw sense preference, detectable by 13C NMR, is induced in the foldamer. Addition of base, or acid, to the mixture of ligands competitively modulates their interaction with the binding site, and reversibly switches the foldamer chain between its left and right-handed conformations. As a result, the foldamer-ligand mixture behaves as a biomimetic chemical system with emergent properties, functioning as a 'proton-counting' molecular device capable of providing a tunable, pH-dependent conformational response to its environment.