Propagation of bacteriophage T4 in its host Escherichia coli involves the folding of the major capsid protein gp23, which is facilitated by a hybrid chaperone complex consisting of the bacterial chaperonin GroEL and the phage-encoded co-chaperonin, gp31. It has been well established that the GroEL-gp31 complex is capable of folding gp23 whereas the homologous GroEL-GroES complex cannot perform this function. To assess whether this is a consequence of differences in the interactions of the proteins within the chaperonin complex, we have investigated the dissociation kinetics of GroEL-gp31 and GroEL-GroES complexes using Förster resonance energy transfer. Here we report that the dissociation of gp31 from GroEL is slightly faster than that of GroES from GroEL and is further accelerated by the binding of gp23. In contrast to what had been observed previously, we found that gp23 is able to interact with the GroEL-GroES complex, which might explain how bacteriophage T4 redirects the folding machinery of Escherichia coli during morphogenesis. © 2009 American Chemical Society.