Folding of polypeptides in the cell typically requires the assistance of a set of proteins termed molecular chaperones. Chaperones are an essential group of proteins necessary for cell viability under both normal and stress conditions. There are several chaperone systems which carry out a multitude of functions all aimed towards insuring the proper folding of target proteins. Chaperones can assist in the efficient folding of newly-translated proteins as these proteins are being synthesized on the ribosome and can maintain pre-existing proteins in a stable conformation. Chaperones can also promote the disaggregation of preformed protein aggregates. Many of the identified chaperones are also heat shock proteins. The general mechanism by which chaperones carry out their function usually involves multiple rounds of regulated binding and release of an unstable conformer of target polypeptides. The four main chaperone systems in the Eschericia coli cytoplasm are as follows. (1) Ribosome-associated trigger factor that assists in the folding of newly-synthesized nascent chains. (2) The Hsp 70 system consisting of DnaK (Hsp 70), its cofactor DnaJ (Hsp 40), and the nucleotide exchange factor GrpE. This system recognizes polypeptide chains in an extended conformation. (3) The Hsp 60 system, consisting of GroEL (Hsp 60) and its cofactor GroES (Hsp 10), which assists in the folding of compact folding intermediates that expose hydrophobic surfaces. (4) The Clp ATPases which are typically members of the Hsp 100 family of heat shock proteins. These ATPases can unfold proteins and disaggregate preformed protein aggregates to target them for degradation. Several advances have recently been made in characterizing the structure and function of all of these chaperone systems. These advances have provided us with a better understanding of the protein folding process in the cell.