The intracellular stress-induced proteins provide protection against toxic insults. Here, a 60,000-Da heat shock 60 (hsp60)-like protein was detected, with five different antibodies, in conditioned media derived from rat cortical astrocytes and a human neuroblastoma cell line. Extracellular neuroblastoma hsp60-like immunoreactivity was increased 3-fold in the presence of the neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and was augmented 2-fold after temperature elevation. Intracellular hsp60 immunoreactivity was reduced 2-3-fold in the presence of VIP; this reduction was attenuated in the presence of brefeldin A, an inhibitor of protein secretion. In contrast, the activity of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), an intracellular marker, did not change in the presence of VIP. Essentially no extracellular LDH activity was detected, indicating no cellular damage. A novel aspect for stress proteins having extracellular protective roles is suggested.