The bacterial heat-shock protein DnaJ has been implicated in protein folding and protein complex dissociation. The DnaJ protein interacts with the prokaryotic analogue of Hsp70, DnaK, and accelerates the rate of ATP hydrolysis by DnaK. Several yeast homologues of DnaJ, with different proposed subcellular localizations and functions, have recently been isolated and are the only eukaryotic forms of DnaJ so far described. We have isolated cDNAs corresponding to two alternatively spliced transcripts of a novel human gene, HSJ1, which show sequence similarity to the bacterial DnaJ protein and the yeast homologues. The cDNA clones were isolated from a human brain-frontal-cortex expression library screened with a polyclonal antiserum raised to paired-helical-filament (PHF) proteins isolated from extracts of the brains of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The similarity between the predicted human protein sequences and the bacterial and yeast proteins is highest at the N-termini, this region also shows a limited similarity to viral T-antigens and is a possible common motif involved in the interaction with DnaK/Hsp70. Northern-blot analysis has shown that human brain contains higher levels of mRNA for the DnaJ homologue than other tissues examined, and hybridization studies with riboprobes in situ show a restricted pattern of expression of the mRNA within the brain, with neuronal layers giving the strongest signal. These findings suggest that the DnaJ-DnaK (Hsp70) interaction is general to eukaryotes and, indeed, to higher organisms.