In both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, the heat shock protein ClpB functions as a molecular chaperone and plays a key role in resisting high temperature stress. ClpB is important for the development of thermotolerance in yeast and cyanobacteria but apparently not in Escherichia coli. We undertook a complementation study to investigate whether the ClpB protein from E coli (EcClpB) differs functionally from its cyanobacterial counterpart in the unicellular cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7942. The EcClpB protein is 56% identical to its ClpB1 homologue in Synechococcus. A plasmid construct was prepared containing the entire E coli clpB gene under the control of the Synechococcus clpB1 promoter. This construct was transformed into a Synechococcus clpB1 deletion strain (ΔclpB1) and integrated into a phenotypically neutral site of the chromosome. The full-length EcClpB protein (EcClpB-93) was induced in the transformed Synechococcus strain during heat shock as well as the smaller protein (EcClpB-79) that arises from a second translational start inside the single clpB message. Using cell survival measurements we show that the EcClpB protein can complement the Synechococcus ΔclpB1 mutant and restore its ability to develop thermotolerance. We also demonstrate that both EcClpB-93 and -79 appear to contribute to the degree of acquired thermotolerance restored to the Synechococcus complementation strains.