Helicase-related proteins play important roles in various cellular processes incuding DNA replication, DNA repair, RNA processing and so on. It has been well known that the amino acid sequences of these proteins contain several conserved motifs, and that the open reading frames (ORFs) which encode helicase-related proteins make up several gene families. In this study, we have identified 134 ORFs that encode helicase-like proteins in the Saccharomyces genome, based on similarity with the ORFs of authentic helicase and helicase-related proteins. Multiple alignment of the ORF sequences resulted in the 134 ORFs being classified to 11 clusters. Seven out of 21 previously uncharacterized ORFs (YDL031w, YDL070w, YDL084w, YGL150c, YKL078w, YLR276c, and YMR128w) were identified by systematic gene disruption, to be essential for vegetative growth. Three (YDR332w, YGL064c, and YOL095c) out of the remaining 14 dispensable ORFs exhibited the slow-growth phenotype at 30 degrees C and 37 degrees C. Furthermore, the expression profiles of transcripts from 43 ORFs were examined under seven different growth conditions by Northern analysis and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, indicating that all of the 43 tested ORFs were transcribed. Interestingly, we found that the level of transcript from 34 helicase-like genes was markedly increased by heat shock. This suggests that helicase-like genes may be involved in the biosynthesis of nucleic acids and proteins, and that the genes can be transcriptionally activated by heat shock to compensate for the repressed synthesis of mRNA and protein.