Using a gene probe of the Escherichia coli groEL gene, a 1.8-kb HindIII fragment of chromosomal DNA of Bacillus subtilis was cloned. Upstream sequences were isolated as a 3-kb PstI fragment. Sequencing of 2,525 bp revealed two open reading frames in the order groES groEL. Alignment of the GroES and GroEL proteins with those of eight other eubacteria revealed 50 to 65% and 72 to 84% sequence similarity, respectively. Primer extension studies revealed one potential transcription start site preceding the groESL operon (S) which was activated upon temperature upshift. Northern (RNA) analysis led to the detection of two mRNA species of 2.2 and 1.5 kb. RNA dot blot experiments revealed an at least 10-fold increase in the amount of specific mRNA from 0 to 5 min postinduction, remaining at this high level for 10 min and then decreasing. A 9-bp inverted repeat within the 5' leader region of the mRNA might be involved in regulation of the heat shock response. By using PBS1 transduction, the groESL operon was mapped at about 342 degrees.