The heat shock proteins are a family of stress-inducible proteins that act as molecular chaperones for nascent proteins and assist in protection and repair of proteins whose conformation is altered by stress. HSP72 and HSP73 are two major cytosolic/nuclear stress proteins of mammalian cells, with extensive sequence homology. HSP73 is constitutively expressed, whereas HSP72 is highly stress-inducible. However, it is unclear why two isoforms are expressed and whether these two proteins have different functions in the cell. To assist in the delineation of function, we have completed a detailed study of the localization of HSP72 and HSP73 in the cell before and after heat stress, using two different methods of detection. By indirect immunohistochemistry, the localization of these two proteins is similar, cytoplasmic and nuclear in nonstressed cells with a translocation to nucleoli immediately after heat. By the more sensitive immunogold electron microscopy technique, differences in localization were noted. In nonstressed cells, HSP72 was primarily nuclear, localized in heterochromatic regions and in nucleoli. HSP73 was distributed throughout the cell, with most cytoplasmic label associated with mitochondria. Mitotic chromosomes were also heavily labeled. After stress, HSP72 concentrated in nuclei and nucleoli and HSP73 localized to nuclei, nucleoli, and cytoplasm, with increased label over mitochondria. These differences in localization suggest that the HSP72 and HSP73 may associate with different proteins or complexes and hence have different but overlapping functions in the cell.