Although cancer cells exposed to temperatures >42.5°C undergo cell death as the temperature rises, exposure of up to 42.5°C induces slight orno cytotoxicity. The temperature of 42.5°C is, therefore, well known to be the inflection point of hyperthermia. To better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying cellular responses to heat stress at temperatures higher and lower than the inflection point, we carried out global scale microarray and computational gene expression analyses. Human leukemia U937 cells were incubated at 42°C or 44°C for 15 min and cultured at 37°C for 0-6 h. Apoptosis accompanied by the activation of caspase-3 and DNA fragmentation was only observed in cells treated with heat stress at 44°C, but not at 42°C. Although a large number of genes were differentially expressed by a factor of 2.0 or greater, we found substantial differences with respect to the biological functions and gene networks of the genes differentially expressed at the two temperatures examined. Interestingly, we identified temperature-specific gene networks that were considered to be mainly associated with cell death or cellular compromise and cellular function and maintenance at 44°C or 42°C, respectively, by using the Ingenuity pathway analysis tools. These findings provide the molecular basis for a further understanding of the mechanisms of the biological changes that are responsive to heat stress in human lymphoma cells.
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