We immunohistochemically studied expressions of inducible heat shock protein 70 (HSP 72) and apoptosis of corneas ablated with an ArF excimer laser. The temperature of corneal surfaces and laser-induced optical emission spectra were measured in real time as direct physical parameters related to the ablation mechanism. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, there have been no experimental studies regarding the influence of physical parameters directly related to the ablation mechanism on corneal reactions at the cell level after laser ablation. The expression of HSP 72 was mainly localized in the regenerative epithelium, which was confirmed to be caused by laser ablation. The HSP 72 positive cell ratios had a correlation with thermal dose, which was derived from the measured time courses of temperature. Expressions of both HSP 72 and apoptosis depended on the thermal dose and elapsed time after ablation. HSP 72 and apoptosis could be seen up to a few hundred micrometers into the stroma, only at a fluence with an optical breakdown emission. This could have been caused by shock waves induced by the optical breakdown. © 2004 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.