The chaperonin-containing TCP-1 (CCT) assists in the folding of actins and tubulins in eukaryotic cells. CCT is composed of 8 subunit species encoded by separate genes. CCT purifies as a single hetero-oligomeric protein complex of 950 kDa through multiple chromatographic and antibody affinity procedures. The CCT 16-mer contains 7 polypeptide species in equimolar amounts (CCTalpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta), together with another subunit (CCTtheta) which is around half-molar. Here we show, by in vitro translation of CCT subunit mRNAs in rabbit reticulocyte lysate, that none of the CCT subunit proteins are themselves folded by CCT. However, the newly translated CCT subunits can incorporate into the endogenous CCT complex present in the lysate via a mechanism involving a nucleotide-dependent disassembly reaction to produce single-rings and then a reassembly reaction whereby free CCT subunits assemble onto these single-rings. This cycling behaviour is an inherent property of the CCT chaperonin complex and provides a powerful method for introducing single amino acid residue changes into this 8578 residue protein complex.