© 2016 The Author(s). Organisms use molecular chaperones to combat the unfolding and aggregation of proteins. While protein chaperones have been widely studied, here we demonstrate that DNA and RNA exhibit potent chaperone activity in vitro. Nucleic acids suppress the aggregation of classic chaperone substrates up to 300-fold more effectively than the protein chaperone GroEL. Additionally, RNA cooperates with the DnaK chaperone system to refold purified luciferase. Our findings reveal a possible new role for nucleic acids within the cell: that nucleic acids directly participate in maintaining proteostasis by preventing protein aggregation.