Chaperonins are large protein complexes consisting of two stacked multisubunit rings, which open and close in an ATP-dependent manner to create a protected environment for protein folding. Here, we describe the first crystal structure of a group II chaperonin in an open conformation. We have obtained structures of the archaeal chaperonin from Methanococcus maripaludis in both a peptide acceptor (open) state and a protein folding (closed) state. In contrast with group I chaperonins, in which the equatorial domains share a similar conformation between the open and closed states and the largest motions occurs at the intermediate and apical domains, the three domains of the archaeal chaperonin subunit reorient as a single rigid body. The large rotation observed from the open state to the closed state results in a 65% decrease of the folding chamber volume and creates a highly hydrophilic surface inside the cage. These results suggest a completely distinct closing mechanism in the group II chaperonins as compared with the group I chaperonins.