DnaJ-like proteins function in association with Hsp70 molecular chaperones to facilitate protein folding. We previously demonstrated that a yeast DnaJ-like protein, Ydj1p, was important for activation of heterologously expressed steroid hormone receptors (Caplan, A. J., Langley, E., Wilson, E. M., and Vidal, J. (1995) J. Biol. Chem. 270, 5251-5257). In the present study, we analyzed Ydj1p function by assaying hormone binding to the human androgen receptor (AR) heterologously expressed in yeast. We analyzed hormone binding in strains that were wild type or deleted for the YDJ1 gene. In the deletion mutant, the AR did not bind hormone to the same extent as the wild type. Introduction of mutant forms of Ydj1p to the deletion strain revealed that the J-domain is necessary but not sufficient for Ydj1p action, and that other domains of the protein are also functionally important. Of three human DnaJ-like proteins introduced into the deletion mutant, only Hdj2, which displays full domain conservation with Ydj1p, suppressed the hormone binding defect of the deletion mutant. By comparison of the domains shared by these three human proteins, and with mutants of Ydj1p that were functional, it was deduced that the cysteine-rich zinc binding domain is important for Hdj2/Ydj1p action in hormone receptor function. A model for the mechanism of DnaJ-like protein action is discussed.