To further elucidate the role of the constitutive heat shock protein-70 (HSC70) as a chaperone for the synthesis of myelin basic protein (MBP), HSC70 content was decreased in oligodendrocyte precursor cells prior to MBP expression either by transfection with an antisense oligonucleotide specific for HSC70, or by exposure to low levels of quercetin, a bioflavonoid known to decrease synthesis of HSC70. As these cells underwent differentiation in vitro, antisense treatment decreased HSC70 levels to 66% of controls. At the same time, a sharp induction resulted in the stress-inducible heat shock protein-70 (HSP70). Levels of two other stress proteins increased as well, namely, the 25-kDa heat shock protein (HSP25) and the 78-kDa glucose regulated protein (GRP78). MBP synthesis proceeded over a normal time course, but at only 50% of control values. As HSC70 content returned to normal, MBP synthesis was also restored to normal levels. Quercetin reduced the expression of HSC70 to an even greater extent than transfection, and prevented the induction of HSP70. In contrast to antisense-treated cells, MBP synthesis was essentially blocked in quercetin-treated cells even though levels of HSP25 and GRP78 increased. Taken together, these observations (a) indicate that HSP70 partially compensates for decreased chaperoning of nascent MBP by HSC70 (HSC70 and HSP70 are closely related and perform similar functions); (b) preclude the involvement of HSP25 and GRP78 in MBP synthesis; and (c) emphasize the requirement of HSC70 for optimal synthesis of MBP.