A key event in legionellosis is the ability of Legionella pneumophila to survive and proliferate inside alveolar macrophages. The dot/icm genes, which are necessary for intracellular growth, show sequence similarity to genes encoding conjugative transfer systems, and it is believed that they are responsible for the formation of a secretion apparatus. Evidence is provided here that the IcmR and IcmQ proteins participate in a chaperone-substrate relationship similar to that observed for translocated proteins in type III and type IV secretion apparatuses. Immobilized IcmQ was found to bind IcmR from crude bacterial extracts efficiently. Furthermore, purified IcmR and IcmQ bind with high affinity. This interaction was also observed in vivo by co-immunoprecipitation. The presence of IcmR was found to affect the physical state of IcmQ directly. In the absence of IcmR, IcmQ formed high-molecular-weight complexes both in vivo and in vitro, whereas IcmR prevented and reversed the formation of these complexes.