Background & Aims: Prior thermal stress induces heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) expression in the pancreas and protects against secretagogue-induced pancreatitis, but it is not clear that this thermal stress-induced protection is actually mediated by HSP70 since thermal stress may have other, non-HSP related, effects. Methods: In the present study, we have administered antisense (AS) oligonucleotides, which prevent pancreatic expression of HSP70 to rats, in vivo, to evaluate this issue. In a separate series of experiments, designed to examine the role of pancreatitis-induced HSP70 expression in modulating the severity of pancreatitis, rats not subjected to prior thermal stress were given AS-HSP70 before cerulein administration, and trypsinogen activation as well as the severity of pancreatitis were evaluated. Results: Hyperthermia induced HSP70 expression, prevented intrapancreatic trypsinogen activation, and protected against cerulein-induced pancreatitis. Administration of AS-HSP70 but not sense-HSP70 reduced the thermal stress-induced HSP70 expression, restored the ability of supramaximal cerulein stimulation to cause intrapancreatic trypsinogen activation, and abolished the protective effect of prior thermal stress against pancreatitis. In nonthermally stressed animals, pretreatment with AS-HSP70 before the induction of pancreatitis exacerbated all the parameters associated with pancreatitis. Conclusions: These findings lead us to conclude that HSP70 induction, rather than some other thermal stress-related phenomenon, mediates the thermal stress-induced protection against pancreatitis and that it protects against pancreatitis by preventing intrapancreatic activation of trypsinogen. The worsening of pancreatitis, which occurs when nonthermally stressed animals are given AS-HSP70 before cerulein, suggests that cerulein-induced HSP70 expression in nontreated animals acts to limit the severity of pancreatitis.
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