The thermodynamics and kinetics of folding of the chicken src SH3 domain were characterized using equilibrium and stopped-flow fluorescence, circular dichroism (CD), and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) hydrogen exchange experiments. As found for other SH3 domains, guanidinium chloride (GdmCl) denaturation melts followed by both fluorescence and circular dichroism were nearly superimposable, indicating the concerted formation of secondary and tertiary structure. Kinetic studies confirmed the two-state character of the folding reaction. Except for a very slow refolding phase due to proline isomerization, both folding and unfolding traces fit well to single exponentials over a wide range of GdmCl concentrations, and no burst phase in amplitude was observed during the dead time of the stopped-flow instrument. The entropy, enthalpy, and heat capacity changes upon unfolding were determined by global fitting of temperature melts at varying GdmCl concentrations (0.4-3.7 M). Estimates of the free energy of unfolding, DeltaGUH2O, from guanidine denaturation, thermal denaturation, and kinetic experiments were in good agreement. To complement these data on the global characteristics of src SH3 folding, individual hydrogen-deuterium (HD) exchange rates were measured for approximately half of the backbone amides in 0 and 0.7 M GdmCl. The calculated free energies of the opening reaction leading to exchange (DeltaGHD) indicated that unfolding is highly cooperative--slowly exchanging protons were distributed throughout the core of the protein. The slowly exchanging protons exhibited DeltaGHD values higher than the global DeltaGUH2O by approximately 1 kcal/mol, suggesting that the denatured state might be somewhat compact under native conditions. Comparison of the src SH3 with homologous SH3 domains as well as with other small well-characterized beta-sheet proteins provides insights into the determinants of folding kinetics and protein stability.