Exercise causes heat shock (muscle temperatures of up to 45 degrees C, core temperatures of up to 44 degrees C) and oxidative stress (generation of O2- and H2O2), and exercise training promotes mitochondrial biogenesis (2-3-fold increases in musclemitochondria). The concentrations of at least 15 possible heat shock or oxidative stressproteins (including one with a molecular weight of 70 kDa) were increased, in skeletal muscle, heart, and liver, by exercise. Soleus, plantaris, and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles exhibited differential protein synthetic responses ([3H]leucine incorporation) to heat shock and oxidative stress in vitro but five proteins (particularly a 70 kDa protein and a 106 kDa protein) were common to both stresses. HSP70 mRNA levels were next analyzed by Northern transfer, using a [32P]-labeled HSP70 cDNA probe. HSP70 mRNA levels were increased, in skeletal and cardiac muscle, by exercise and by both heat shock and oxidative stress. Skeletal muscle HSP70 mRNA levels peaked 30-60 min following exercise, and appeared to decline slowly towards control levels by 6 h postexercise. Two distinctHSP70 mRNA species were observed in cardiac muscle, a 2.3 kb mRNA which returned to control levels within 2-3 h postexercise, and a 3.5 kb mRNA species which remained at elevated concentrations for some 6 h postexercise. The induction of HSP70 appears to be a physiological response to the heat shock and oxidative stress of exercise. Exercise hyperthermia may actually cause oxidative stress since we also found that musclemitochondria undergo progressive uncoupling and increased O2- generation with increasing temperatures.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).