In Escherichia coli and mitochondria, the molecular chaperone DnaJ is required not only for protein folding but also for selective degradation of certain abnormal polypeptides. Here we demonstrate that in the yeast cytosol, the homologous chaperone Ydj1 is also required for ubiquitin-dependent degradation of certain abnormal proteins. The temperature-sensitive ydj1-151 mutant showed a large defect in the overall breakdown of short-lived cell proteins and abnormal polypeptides containing amino acid analogs, especially at 38 degrees C. By contrast, the degradation of long-lived cell proteins, which is independent of ubiquitin, was not altered nor was cell growth affected. The inactivation of Ydj1 markedly reduced the rapid, ubiquitin-dependent breakdown of certain beta-galactosidase (beta-gal) fusion polypeptides. Although degradation of N-end rule substrates (arginine-beta-gal and leucine-beta-gal) and the B-type cyclin Clb5-beta-gal occurred normally, degradation of the abnormal polypeptide ubiquitin-proline-beta-gal (Ub-P-beta-gal) and that of the short-lived normal protein Gcn4 were inhibited. As a consequence of reduced degradation of Ub-P-beta-gal, the beta-gal activity was four to five times higher in temperature-sensitive ydj1-151 mutant cells than in wild-type cells; thus, the folding and assembly of this enzyme do not require Ydj1 function. In wild-type cells, but not in ydj1-151 mutant cells, this chaperone is associated with the short-lived substrate Ub-P-beta-gal and not with stable beta-gal constructs. Furthermore, in the ydj1-151 mutant, the ubiquitination of Ub-P-beta-gal was blocked and the total level of ubiquitinated protein in the cell was reduced. Thus, Ydj1 is essential for the ubiquitin-dependent degradation of certain proteins. This chaperone may facilitate the recognition of unfolded proteins or serve as a cofactor for certain ubiquitin-ligating enzymes.