Eukaryotic genomes encode multiple 70-kDa heat-shock proteins (HSP70s). The Saccharomyces cerevisiae HSP70 family is comprised of eight members. Here we present the nucleotide sequence of the SSA3 and SSB2 genes, completing the nucleotide sequence data for the yeast HSP70 family. We have analyzed these yeast sequences as well as 29 HSP70s from 24 additional eukaryotic and prokaryotic species. Comparison of the sequences demonstrates the extreme conservation of HSP70s; proteins from the most distantly related species share at least 45% identity and more than one-sixth of the amino acids are identical in the aligned region (567 amino acids) among all proteins analyzed. Phylogenetic trees constructed by two independent methods indicate that ancient molecular and cellular events have given rise to at least four monophyletic groups of eukaryotic HSP70 proteins. Each group of evolutionarily similar HSP70s shares a common intracellular localization and is presumed to be comprised of functional homologues; these include heat-shock proteins of the cytoplasm, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, and chloroplasts. HSP70s localized in mitochondria and plastids are most similar to the DnaK HSP70 homologues in purple bacteria and cyanobacteria, respectively, which is consistent with the proposed prokaryotic origin of these organelles. The analyses indicate that the major eukaryotic HSP70 groups arose prior to the divergence of the earliest eukaryotes, roughly 2 billion years ago. In some cases, as exemplified by the SSA genes encoding the cytoplasmic HSP70s of S. cerevisiae, more recent duplication events have given rise to subfamilies within the major groups. The S. cerevisiae SSB proteins comprise a unique subfamily not identified in other species to date. This subfamily appears to have resulted from an ancient gene duplication that occurred at approximately the same time as the origin of the major eukaryotic HSP70 groups.