The specific mechanism of cell killing by hyperthermia is unknown, but the high activation energy of cell killing and other responses to hyperthermia suggest that protein denaturation is the rate-limiting step. Protein denaturation can be directly monitored by differential scanning calorimetry and in general there is a good correlation between protein denaturation and cellular response. Approximately 5% denaturation is necessary for detectable killing. Protein denaturation leads to the aggregation of both denatured and native protein with multiple effects on cellular function.
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