A family of proteins has been discovered over the past three years whose members have clear sequence homology to actin but are distinguished from actin by their structural and functional diversity. The ranks of this family, whose members are known as the actin-related proteins (arps), are expanding rapidly. Arps are but one branch of a larger superfamily which includes the actins, hsp/hsc70s, sugar kinases and several cell cycle proteins from bacteria. The existence of the superfamily has been inferred from tertiary structural data. In the case of the arps, their identification and classification has been based upon primary structural data. Placing the arps in a functional context is proving a slower process, although genetic and biochemical analyses are converging in several cases. In the past year, different arps have been linked to functions mediated by actin filaments (arp2 and arp3), microtubules (arp1) and the structural elements of chromatin (arp4 and arp6).