We report here a chromosomal protein that plays an essential role in mitotic chromosome condensation in Xenopus egg extracts. Two polypeptides, designated XCAP-C and XCAP-E, were found to associate with each other in the extracts, presumably forming a heterodimer. During chromosome assembly in mitotic extracts, XCAP-C/E was recruited to the chromatin and formed a discrete internal structure within assembled chromosomes. Antibody blocking experiments showed that XCAP-C function is required for both assembly and structural maintenance of mitotic chromosomes in vitro. Deduced amino acid sequences revealed that the two polypeptides share common structural motifs, consisting of an N-terminal NTP-binding domain, two central coiled-coil regions, and a C-terminal conserved domain. These motifs are highly conserved in a protein family, members of which have been identified recently in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.