Cells respond to a wide variety of stresses through the transcriptional activation of genes that harbour stress elements within their promoters. While many of these elements are shared by genes encoding proteins representative of all subcellular compartments, cells can also respond to stresses that are specific to individual organelles, such as the endoplasmic reticulum un folded protein response. Here we report on the discovery and characterization of a mitochondrial stress response in mammalian cells. We find that the accumulation of unfolded protein within the mitochondrial matrix results in the transcriptional upregulation of nuclear genes encoding mitochondrial stress proteins such as chaperonin 60, chaperonin 10, mtDnaJ and ClpP, but not those encoding stress proteins of the endoplasmic reticulum. Analysis of the chaperonin 60/10 bidirectional promoter identified a CHOP element as the mitochondrial stress response element. Dominant-negative mutant forms of CHOP and overexpression of CHOP revealed that this transcription factor, in association with C/EBP, regulates expression of mitochondrial stress genes in response to the accumulation of unfolded proteins.