DnaJ-like proteins are defined by the presence of an approximately 73 amino acid region termed the J domain. This region bears similarity to the initial 73 amino acids of the Escherichia coli protein DnaJ. Although the structures of the J domains of E coli DnaJ and human heat shock protein 40 have been solved using nuclear magnetic resonance, no detailed analysis of the amino acid conservation among the J domains of the various DnaJ-like proteins has yet been attempted. A multiple alignment of 223 J domain sequences was performed, and the levels of amino acid conservation at each position were established. It was found that the levels of sequence conservation were particularly high in 'true' DnaJ homologues (ie, those that share full domain conservation with DnaJ) and decreased substantially in those J domains in DnaJ-like proteins that contained no additional similarity to DnaJ outside their J domain. Residues were also identified that could be important for stabilizing the J domain and for mediating the interaction with heat shock protein 70.