Recently, randomized phase III trials have indicated that hyperthermia combined with radiation leads to significantly better tumour control of certain malignancies than does radio-therapy alone. Yet, the full capacity of such combined treatments might not have been optimally exploited as in vitro data indicate that repeated beating of cells can result in either the development of a transient heat resistance (thermotolerance) and/or the selection/induction of a stable heat resistant cell population. Although the mechanism of thermotolerance and its effect on thermo-radiotherapy has been studied extensively, little data are available on the mechanism of stable heat resistance and its impact on combined heat and radiation treatments. In the current study, a comprehensive analysis was made of the differences and similarities between thermotolerance (TT) and stable heat resistance (TR) in terms of the mechanism of resistance to the direct toxic action of heat and in terms of the impact on the extent of thermal radiosensitization. Using heat resistant mutants previously derived from a murine radiation-induced fibrosarcoma (RIF-1), it was observed that these cells were resistant to protein denaturation and aggregation in the cytoplasmic/membrane compartment (measured by ESR (electron spin resonance) analysis and by in situ thermal denaturation of the foreign firefly luciferase targeted to the cytoplasm) but not in the nuclear compartment (measured by TX-100 insoluble nuclear proteins and by in situ thermal denaturation of luciferase targeted to the nucleus). RIF-1-TT cells, in contrast, were resistant for a 1 end-points tested. The lack of protection of nuclear heat damage in the RIF-TR cells could not be explained by a failure of one or more of the HSP70 isoforms to enter the nuclei of these cells. In relation to the absence or presence of heat resistance in the nucleus, the extent of heat radiosensitization was reduced in RIF-1-TT but not RIF-TR cells. This implies that resistance for heat killing is not necessarily accompanied by a reduction in the ability of heat to enhance the cellular radiosensitivity. The data indicate that the mechanism leading to permanent resistance after repeated heating and the mechanism causing thermotolerance may share common features but are in part different.