Proteome profiling of the inclusion body (IB) fraction of recombinant proteins produced in Escherichia coli suggested that two small heat shock proteins, IbpA and lbpB, are the major proteins associated with IBs. In this study, we demonstrate that IbpA and IbpB facilitate the production of recombinant proteins in E. coli and play important roles in protecting recombinant proteins from degradation by cytoplasmic proteases. We examined the cytosolic production, and Tat- or Sec-dependent secretion of the enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) in wild type, ibpAB(-) mutant, and ibpAB-amplified E. coli strains. Analysis of fluorescence histograms and confocal microscopic imaging revealed that over-expression of the ibpA and/or ibpB genes enhanced cytosolic EGFP production whereas knocking out the ibpAB genes enhanced secretory production. This strategy seems to be generally applicable as it was successfully employed for the enhanced cytosolic or secretory production of several other recombinant proteins in E. coli. (C) 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.