We have isolated and characterized a cDNA from a strawberry fruit subtractive library that shows homology to class-I low-molecular-weight (LMW) heat-shock protein genes from other higher plants. The strawberry cDNA (clone njjs4) was a 779 bp full-length cDNA with a single open reading frame of 468 bp that is expected to encode a protein of ca. 17.4 kDa with a pI of 6.57. Southern analysis with genomic DNA showed several high-molecular-weight hybridization bands, indicating that the corresponding njjs4 gene is not present as a single copy in the genome. This strawberry gene was not expressed in roots, leaves, flowers and stolons but in fruits at specific stages of elongation and ripening. However, a differential pattern of mRNA expression was detected in the fruit tissues achenes and receptacle. The njjs4 gene expression increased in achenes accompanying the process of seed maturation whereas in the receptacle, a high mRNA expression was detected in the W2 stage, during which most of the metabolic changes leading to the fruit ripening are occurring. Our results clearly show a specific relationship of this njjs4 strawberry gene with the processes of seed maturation and fruit ripening, and strongly support that at least some of the class-I LMW heat-shock protein-like genes have a heat-stress-independent role in plant development, including fruit ripening.