When eukaryotic cells are exposed to elevated temperatures they respond by vigorously synthesizing a small group of proteins called the heat shock proteins. An essential element in defining the role of these proteins is determining whether they are unique to a stressed state or are also found in healthy, rapidly growing cells at normal temperatures. To date, there have been conflicting reports concerning the major heat-induced protein of Drosophila cells, HSP 70. We report the development of monoclonal antibodies specific for this protein. These antibodies were used to assay HSP 70 in cells incubated under different culture conditions. The protein was detectable in cells maintained at normal temperatures, but only when immunological techniques were pushed to the limits of their sensitivity. To test for the possibility that these cells contain a reservoir of protein in a cryptic antigenic state (i.e., waiting posttranslational modification for use at high temperature), we treated cells with cycloheximide or actinomycin D immediately before heat shock. HSP 70 was not detected in these cells. Finally, we tested for the presence of a reservoir of inactive messages by using a high stringency hybridization of 32P-labeled cloned gene sequences to electrophoretically separated RNAs. Although HSP 70 mRNA was detectable in rapidly growing cells, it was present at less than 1/1,000th the level achieved after induction.

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