Chaperonins are thought to participate in the process of protein folding in bacteria and in eukaryotic mitochondria and chloroplasts. While some chaperonins are relatively well characterized, the structures of the mammalian chaperonins are unknown. We have expressed a mammalian mitochondrial chaperonin 60 in Escherichia coli and purified the recombinant protein to homogeneity. Structural and biochemical analyses of this protein establish a single toroidal structure of seven subunits, in contrast to the homologous bacterial, fungal, and plant chaperonin 60s, which have double toroidal structures comprising two layers of seven identical subjects each. The recombinant mammalian chaperonin 60, together with the mammalian chaperonin 10 (but not with bacterial chaperonin 10), facilitates the formation of catalytically active ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase from an unfolded state in the presence of K+ and MgATP. Analysis of the partial reactions involved in this in vitro reconstitution reveals that the single toroid of chaperonin 60 can form stable complexes with both unfolded or partially folded [35S]ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase and mitochondrial (but not bacterial) chaperonin 10 in the presence of MgATP. We conclude that the minimal functional unit of chaperonin 60 is a single hepatmeric toroid.