The main function of the chaperone GroEL is to prevent nonspecific association of nonnative protein chains and provide their correct folding. In the present work, the renaturation kinetics of three globular proteins (human alpha-lactalbumin, bovine carbonic anhydrase, and yeast phosphoglycerate kinase) in the presence of different molar excess of GroEL (up to 10-fold) was studied. It was shown that the formation of the native structure during the refolding of these proteins is retarded with an increase in GroEL molar excess due to the interaction of kinetic protein intermediates with the chaperone. Mg(2+)-ATP and Mg(2+)-ADP weaken this interaction and decrease the retarding effect of GroEL on the protein refolding kinetics. The theoretical modeling of protein folding in the presence of GroEL showed that the experimentally observed linear increase in the protein refolding half-time with increasing molar excess of GroEL must occur only when the protein adopts its native structure outside of GroEL (i.e. in the free state), while the refolding of the protein in the complex with GroEL is inhibited. The dissociation constants of GroEL complexed with the kinetic intermediates of the proteins studied were evaluated, and a simple mechanism of the functioning of GroEL as a molecular chaperone was proposed.