Discovering the mechanism of protein folding, in molecular biology, is a great challenge. A key step to this end is to find factors that correlate with protein folding rates. Over the past few years, many empirical parameters, such as contact order, long-range order, total contact distance, secondary structure contents, have been developed to reflect the correlation between folding rates and protein tertiary or secondary structures. However, the correlation between proteins' folding rates and their amino acid compositions has not been explored. In the present work, we examined systematically the correlation between proteins' folding rates and their amino acid compositions for two-state and multistate folders and found that different amino acids contributed differently to the folding progress. The relation between the amino acids' molecular weight and degeneracy and the folding rates was examined, and the role of hydrophobicity in the protein folding process was also inspected. As a consequence, a new indicator called composition index was derived, which takes no structure factors into account and is merely determined by the amino acid composition of a protein. Such an indicator is found to be highly correlated with the protein's folding rate (r > 0.7). From the results of this work, three points of concluding remarks are evident. (1) Two-state folders and multistate folders have different rate-determining amino acids. (2) The main determining information of a protein's folding rate is largely reflected in its amino acid composition. (3) Composition index may be the best predictor for an ab initio protein folding rate prediction directly from protein sequence from the standpoint of practical application. Proteins 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.