Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90), an abundant and ubiquitous cytoplasmic protein has recently been indicated to participate in the regulation of protein synthesis by interacting with the heme-regulated eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF-2α) kinase, also known as the heme-regulated inhibitor (HRI). However, there exists an ambiguity on the exact nature of its action. In this investigation, the interaction of Hsp90 and HRI has been examined both in vitro using purified proteins, and in situ in rabbit reticulocyte lysates subjected to heat shock and treatment with N-ethylmaleimide (NEM), a sulfhydryl reagent known to induce stress response. During heat shock or NEM-treatment of reticulocyte lysates, Hsp90 co-immunoprecipitated with activated HRI by anti-HRI monoclonal antibodies. Furthermore, the amount of Hsp90 being associated with HRI was a function of duration of heat shock and was correlated with the extent of HRI activation. Interestingly, simultaneous heat shock and NRM-treatment of reticulocyte lysates led to maximal association of HRI and Hsp90, leaving nearly no free HRI in the lysates. In vitro, with the purified proteins, the autokinase and the eIF-2α kinase activities of HRI were enhanced when HRI was pre-incubated with Hsp90, both in the presence and absence of hemin. These data, therefore, clearly demonstrate that Hsp90 interacts with HRI during stress, and that this association leads to activation of HRI and thereby inhibition of protein synthesis at the level of initiation. Considering the ubiquitous nature of Hsp90 and the presence of HRI or HRI-like eIF-2α kinase activity in a number of organisms, it is highly possible that Hsp90 may universally mediate down regulation of global protein synthesis during stress response.