The response of cells to a heat shock or other stresses is the activation of a small number of genes which were previously inactive or transcribed at low levels. This response has been observed in a wide variety of bacterial, plant, and animal species. Evidence is accumulating that at least some of the proteins found in diverse species are similar, indicating a conservation of the response and the proteins in evolution. In a number of organisms a strong positive correlation has been found between the presence of heat shock proteins and ability of the organism to withstand thermal stress. This review attempts to assess the available data concerning the homology of proteins in different species, the localization of the proteins in cells, and the relationship between heat shock proteins and thermoresistance.