We have shown that sodium salicylate (SA) activates the heat shock promoter and induces the expression of heat shock proteins (Hsps) with a concomitant increase in the thermotolerance of cells. To identify the functional groups of SA necessary for the induction of Hsps, we evaluated the effect of various derivatives of SA using a mammalian cell line containing a reporter gene downstream of an hsp105 promoter. Among the derivatives, the compounds in which the carboxyl group of SA was substituted activated the hsp105 promoter at 37 °C as SA did, but the compounds in which the hydroxyl group was substituted did not. Thus, the phenylic hydroxyl group but not the carboxyl group of SA seemed to be necessary for a stress-induced response. In addition, the orientation of two functional groups on the benzene ring of SA derivatives was also important for the induction of a response. Among these compounds, salicylalcohol which strongly induced the expression of Hsps suppressed the protein aggregation and apoptosis caused by an expanded polyglutamine tract in a cellular model of polyglutamine disease. These findings may aid in the development of novel effective Hsp-inducers.