A heat-inducible, intron-containing member of the hsp70 gene family has been isolated and characterized in Hydra magnipapillata and Hydra oligactis, two species previously shown [Bosch, T. C. G., Krylow, S. M., Bode, H. R. & Steele, R. E. (1988) Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 85, 7927-7931] to differ in their stress response. The gene, hsp70.1, encodes a 654-amino-acid protein of predicted molecular mass 70 kDa with 78% amino acid identity to Xenopus HSP70. Northern-blot analysis revealed that polyps of H. oligactis accumulate significantly less hsp70.1 mRNA after heat shock than polyps of H. magnipapillata. In nuclear run-off experiments, we found that transcriptional induction of hsp70.1 expression in response to stress is similar in both species. Thus, the previously reported inability of H. oligactis to synthesize heat-shock proteins in response to stress is at least in part due to reduced stability of hsp70.1 mRNA during heat shock.