This chapter characterizes and compares the phenomena of thermotolerance and permanent heat resistance. The biochemical and molecular mechanisms for the induction of thermotolerance are described and the role that heat shock proteins (hsps) play in its development and decay are discussed. The chapter also discuses the involvement of hsps in normal cellular metabolism. The fact that mammalian cells become permanently thermoresistant when transfected with hsp70 and that cells become thermal sensitive when hsp70 levels are reduced, directly demonstrates that hsp70 plays a vital role in thermotolerance. Hsp70 acts by stabilizing and preventing thermal denaturation of proteins and by facilitating the dissociation of protein aggregates that are formed during conditions of stress. Other hsps, such as hsp27, may also have thermal protective functions and there may even be cooperative action among members of the hsp family during thermotolerance development as has been shown for the hsp70 and hsp60 chaperones during the folding of denatured proteins.
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