Summary Prefoldin (PFD) is a molecular chaperone that stabilizes and then delivers unfolded proteins to a chaperonin for facilitated folding. The PFD hexamer has undergone an evolutionary change in subunit composition, from two PFDα and four PFDβ subunits in archaea to six different subunits (two α-like and four β-like subunits) in eukaryotes. Here, we show by electron microscopy that PFD from the archaeum Pyrococcus horikoshii (PhPFD) selectively uses an increasing number of subunits to interact with nonnative protein substrates of larger sizes. PhPFD stabilizes unfolded proteins by interacting with the distal regions of the chaperone tentacles, a mechanism different from that of eukaryotic PFD, which encapsulates its substrate inside the cavity. This suggests that although the fundamental functions of archaeal and eukaryal PFD are conserved, their mechanism of substrate interaction have diverged, potentially reflecting a narrower range of substrates stabilized by the eukaryotic PFD.