Previous studies from this laboratory identified a 28-kd nonreducible protein, liver-derived immunoinhibitory factor (LDIF) from the mouse liver. Isolation of this protein resulted in the co-purification of another unique protein called heat responsive protein 12 kd (Hrp12). In contrast to LDIF, Hrp12 was totally reducible to a protein of 12 kd suggesting a dimer. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) purification, followed by sequencing of an in situ cyanogen bromide digest of membrane bound Hrp12, yielded an internal 20-amino acid polypeptide. Degenerate oligonucleotides made from this peptide were used to screen a murine liver complementary DNA (cDNA) library. A 1240-bp cDNA clone was obtained with an internal 521-bp open reading frame (ORF). Sequence analysis of the 173-amino acid ORF of mouse Hrp12 showed a high degree of homology with a 99 amino acid rat liver-kidney perchloric acid-soluble protein (LKPS) and a 136-amino acid perchloric acid soluble rat protein (PSP). Transcripts for Hrp12 were mainly restricted to the liver and kidney in mouse and man. The protein was estimated to be approximately 0.8% of the total liver-soluble cytosolic protein. A zoo-blot probed at moderate stringency with labeled cDNA revealed a strong conservation of the gene in all of the mammalian species tested. Analysis of the protein structure of Hrp12 revealed motifs predicted to be targets for protein kinase C (PKC). More importantly, purified mouse Hrp12 could be phosphorylated in vitro with PKC. The protein had significant similarity to DnaK heat shock protein (Hsp)70 and contained a 54-amino acid stretch with sequence similarity to Hsp90. This prompted us to investigate the heat shock response of Hrp12. Isolated hepatocytes and hepatoma cells were exposed to different heat shock temperatures (39.5 degrees C, 42.5 degrees C, and 44.5 degrees C); and then total RNA was extracted and Northern analysis carried out. The message for this novel protein responded atypically to heat shock. Although the steady-state level of the message increased after heat shock, a marked oscillatory pattern was superimposed on it. In contrast, the steady-state levels of Hsp90 and Hsp70 messenger RNA (mRNA) were found to respond to heat shock in the expected manner. Finally, the amount of Hrp12 protein was also found to increase after heat shock in a manner that was consistent with heat-responsive proteins.