Chaperonins are a class of stress-inducible molecular chaperones involved in protein folding. We report the cloning, sequencing and characterisation of the rat mitochondrial chaperonin 60 and chaperonin 10 genes. The two genes are arranged in a head-to-head configuration and together comprise 14 kb and contain 14 introns. The genes are linked together by a region of approximately 280 bp, which constitutes a bidirectional promoter and includes a common heat-shock element. Insertion of the shared promoter region between two reporter genes is sufficient to drive their expression under both constitutive and heat-shock conditions. The arrangement of the mammalian chaperonin genes suggests the potential to provide the coordinated regulation of their products in a manner that is mechanistically distinct from, yet conceptually similar to, that employed by the bacterial chaperonin (groE) operon.