The sequence of heat shock-induced perturbations in protein synthesis and cytoskeletal organization was investigated in primary cultures of mouse mammary epithelial cells (MMEC). Exposure of the cells to 45 degrees C for 15 min caused a marked inhibition of protein synthesis through 2 h after heart. Resumption of protein synthesis began by 4 h, was complete by 8 h, and was accompanied by induction of four major heat shock proteins (HSPs) of 68, 70, 89, and 110 kD. Fluorescent cytochemistry studies indicated that heat shock elicited a reversible change in the organization of keratin filaments (KFs) and actin filaments but had a negligible effect on microtubules. Changes in the organization of KFs progressed gradually with maximal retraction and collapse into the perinuclear zone occurring at 1-2 h after heat followed by restoration to the fully extended state at 8 h. In contrast, actin filaments disappeared immediately after heat treatment and then rapidly returned within 30-60 min to their original appearance. The translocation of many organelles first into and then away from the juxtanuclear area along with the disruption and reformation of polyribosomes were concurrent with the sequential changes in distribution of KFs. The recovery of the arrangement of KFs coincided with but was independent of the resumption of protein synthesis and induction of HSPs. Thermotolerance could be induced in protein synthesis and KFs, but not in actin filaments, by a conditioning heat treatment. Neither protein synthesis nor induction of HSPs was necessary for the acquisition of thermotolerance in the KFs. The results are compatible with the possibility that protein synthesis may depend on the integrity of the KF network in MMEC. Heat shock thus can efficiently disarrange the KF system in a large population of epithelial cells, thereby facilitating studies on the functions of this cytoskeletal component.

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