We have established high resolution methods for global monitoring of gene expression in Escherichia coli. Hybridization of radiolabeled cDNA to spot blots on nylon membranes was compared to hybridization of fluorescently-labeled cDNA to glass microarrays for efficiency and reproducibility. A complete set of PCR primers was created for all 4290 annotated open reading frames (ORFs) from the complete genome sequence of E.coli K-12 (MG1655). Glass- and nylon-based arrays of PCR products were prepared and used to assess global changes in gene expression. Full-length coding sequences for array printing were generated by two-step PCR amplification. In this study we measured changes in RNA levels after exposure to heat shock and following treatment with isopropyl-beta-D-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG). Both radioactive and fluorescence-based methods showed comparable results. Treatment with IPTG resulted in high level induction of the lacZYA and melAB operons. Following heat shock treatment 119 genes were shown to have significantly altered expression levels, including 35 previously uncharacterized ORFs and most genes of the heat shock stimulon. Analysis of spot intensities from hybridization to replicate arrays identified sets of genes with signals consistently above background suggesting that at least 25% of genes were expressed at detectable levels during growth in rich media.