Heat shock resulted in rapid accumulation of large amounts of trehalose in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In cultures growing exponentially on glucose, the trehalose content of the cells increased from 0.01 to 1 g/g of protein within 1 h after the incubation temperature was shifted from 27 to 40 degrees C. When the temperature was readjusted to 27 degrees C, the accumulated trehalose was rapidly degraded. In parallel, the activity of the trehalose-phosphate synthase, the key enzyme of trehalose biosynthesis, increased about sixfold during the heat shock and declined to the normal level after readjustment of the temperature. Surprisingly, the activity of neutral trehalase, the key enzyme of trehalose degradation, also increased about threefold during the heat shock and remained almost constant during recovery of the cells at 27 degrees C. In pulse-labeling experiments with [14C]glucose, trehalose was found to be turned over rapidly in heat-shocked cells, indicating that both anabolic and catabolic enzymes of trehalose metabolism were active in vivo. Possible functions of the heat-induced accumulation of trehalose and its rapid turnover in an apparently futile cycle during heat shock are discussed.