There is evidence to suggest that components of archaebacteria are evolutionarily related to cognates in the eukaryotic cytosol. We postulated that the major heat-shock protein of the thermophilic archaebacterium, Sulfolobus shibatae, is a molecular chaperone and that it is related to an as-yet unidentified chaperone component in the eukaryotic cytosol. Acquired thermotolerance in S. shibatae correlates with the predominant synthesis of this already abundant protein, referred to as thermophilic factor 55 (TF55). TF55 is a homo-oligomeric complex of two stacked 9-membered rings, closely resembling the 7-membered-ring complexes of the chaperonins, groEL, hsp60 and Rubisco-binding protein. The TF55 complex binds unfolded polypeptides in vitro and has ATPase activity-features consistent with its being a molecular chaperone. The primary structure of TF55, however, is not significantly related to the chaperonins. On the other hand, it is highly homologous (36-40% identity) to a ubiquitous eukaryotic protein, t-complex polypeptide-1 (TCP1). In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, TCP1 is an essential protein that may play a part in mitotic spindle formation. We suggest that TF55 in archaebacteria and TCP1 in the eukaryotic cytosol are members of a new class of molecular chaperones.