Heat shock protein 60 (HSP60), a member of the chaperonin family, has an essential role in mediating correct folding of nuclear encoded proteins imported to mitochondria. We have investigated immunocytochemical expression of HSP60 in developing fetal, newborn, postnatal, and pubertal testis and ovary, and in the adult ovary of the rat. In the fetal gonads, HSP60 was expressed in the germ cells organized into sex cords and in the developing Leydig cells of the testis. In the pubertal testis, Leydig cells were strongly, spermatogonia and premeiotic spermatocytes moderately labeled, spermatids unlabeled. In the postnatal ovary, oocytes at all stages of folliculogenesis were positive for HSP60. In the pubertal ovary, glandular theca cells, and in the mature ovary, also the cells of the corpora lutea exhibited intense cytoplasmic labeling. At the electron microscopic level, immunogold particles were localized in the mitochondrial matrix, and in the Western blot analysis the antibody detected one single band of 60 kDa. Anti-HSP60 labeling in male and female sex steroid producing cells and their progenitors seems to be coordinated with the functional differentiation of these endocrine cells of the gonad. In the oocytes, a key element required for proper folding of imported mitochondrial proteins seems to be constitutively expressed throughout folliculogenesis. However, the data suggest that in the male germ cells mitochondrial chaperonin HSP60 is either not needed during the haploid phase of spermatogenesis or its level becomes extensively reduced and therefore undetectable by the methods used in the study.