Heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) is a highly conserved molecular chaperone that facilitates the maturation of a wide range of proteins (known as clients). Clients are enriched in signal transducers, including kinases and transcription factors. Therefore, HSP90 regulates diverse cellular functions and exerts marked effects on normal biology, disease and evolutionary processes. Recent structural and functional analyses have provided new insights on the transcriptional and biochemical regulation of HSP90 and the structural dynamics it uses to act on a diverse client repertoire. Comprehensive understanding of how HSP90 functions promises not only to provide new avenues for therapeutic intervention, but to shed light on fundamental biological questions.