Hyperthermia induces the synthesis of the 71-kDa heat-shock protein (heat-shock response) in all rat tissues, including heart. We examined whether induction of the heat-shock response alters the response of isolated hearts to ischemia and reperfusion. Anesthetized male rats were pretreated with 15 min of hyperthermia (42 degrees C) and then recovered for 0, 24, 48, 96, or 192 h. Hearts were isolated from control and hyperthermia-treated rats and retrogradely perfused. Greatest recovery occurred in 48-h postheat-shock hearts; after 30 min of reperfusion there was a 38, 62, and 62% recovery of force, +dF/dt, and -dF/dt, respectively, and 17, 36, and 30% recovery, respectively, for the control hearts. Creatine kinase efflux during reperfusion was reduced by 75% for 24-h postheat-shock hearts. The antioxidative enzyme catalase was increased 24, 48, and 96 h posthyperthermia. Treatment of rats with 3-amino-1,2,4-triazole (1 g/kg body wt), which irreversibly inactivates catalase, 30 min before isolation of hearts, abolished the hyperthermia-induced enhancement of postischemic recovery. These results show a strong relationship between the acquisition and decay of the enhanced postischemic ventricular recovery and the hyperthermic induction of the heat-shock response indicated by the accumulation of heat-shock protein HSP71 (mol mass 71 kDa) and the increase in catalase activity.