Small heat shock protein (sHsp) responses were studied for two evergreen perennial shrubs in the northern California chaparral; one common on warm, south-facing slopes (Ceanothus cuneatus), and the other on cooler, north-facing slopes (Prunus ilicifolia). Small Hsp expression was induced experimentally for field collected leaves. Leaf collections were made where the species co-occur. Small Hsp expression was quantified using two antibodies, one specific to a chloroplast 22 kD sHsp and another that detects a broad range of sHsps. Differences between chloroplast sHsp accumulation, which protects thermally labile proteins in PSII, and the general sHsp response were examined. The species from the cooler microclimate, Prunus, had a lower induction temperature and accumulated greater levels of sHsps at low temperatures. Both Prunus and Ceanothus reached peak sHsp expression at 42∘C. The species from the warmer microclimate, Ceanothus, had greater sHsp expression at higher temperatures. Chloroplast sHsp expression generally tracked sHsp expression in Ceanothus, but in Prunus general Hsps were elevated before chloroplast sHsps. Variation between species for sHsp expression (induction temperatures, accumulation levels, and the duration of expression) coupled with the costs of Hsp synthesis, may contribute to differences in the abundance and distribution of plants across environmental gradients.



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