The objective of this study was to investigate the kinetics of Hsp60, Hsp70, Hsp90 protein, and messenger RNA (mRNA) expression levels and to correlate these heat shock protein (Hsp) levels with tissue damage resulting from exposure to high temperatures for varying amounts of time. One hundred broilers were heat-stressed for 0, 2, 3, 5, and 10 h, respectively, by rapidly increasing the ambient temperature from 22 ± 1°C to 37 ± 1°C. Obvious elevations of plasma creatine kinase indicate damage to myocardial cells after heat stress. Hsp70 and Hsp90, and their corresponding mRNAs in the heart tissue of heat-stressed broilers, elevated significantly after 2 h of heat exposure and decreased quickly with continued heat stress. However, the levels of hsp60 mRNA in the heart of heat-stressed broilers increased sharply (P < 0.01) at 2 h of heat stress but then decreased quickly after 3 h, while the level of Hsp60 protein in the heart increased (P < 0.01) at 2 h of heat stress and maintained a high level throughout heat exposure. The results indicate that the elevation of the three Hsps, especially Hsp60 in heart, may be important markers at the beginning of heat stress and act as protective proteins in adverse environments. The reduction of Hsp signals in the cytoplasm of myocardial cells implies that myocardial cell lesions may have an adverse impact on the function of Hsps during heat stress. Meanwhile, the localization of Hsp70 in blood vessels of broiler hearts suggests another possible mechanism for protection of the heart after heat exposure
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