The availability of full genome sequences has allowed the construction of microarrays, with which screening of the full genome for changes in gene expression is possible. This method can provide a wealth of information about biology at the level of gene expression and is a powerful method to identify genes and pathways involved in various processes. In this study, we report a detailed analysis of the full heat stress response in Drosophila melanogaster females, using whole genome gene expression arrays (Affymetrix Inc, Santa Clara, CA, USA). The study focuses on up- as well as downregulation of genes from just before and at 8 time points after an application of short heat hardening (36 degrees C for 1 hour). The expression changes were followed up to 64 hours after the heat stress, using 4 biological replicates. This study describes in detail the dramatic change in gene expression over time induced by a short-term heat treatment. We found both known stress responding genes and new candidate genes, and processes to be involved in the stress response. We identified 3 main groups of stress responsive genes that were early-upregulated, early-downregulated, and late-upregulated, respectively, among 1222 differentially expressed genes in the data set. Comparisons with stress sensitive genes identified by studies of responses to other types of stress allow the discussion of heat-specific and general stress responses in Drosophila. Several unexpected features were revealed by this analysis, which suggests that novel pathways and mechanisms are involved in the responses to heat stress and to stress in general. The majority of stress responsive genes identified in this and other studies were downregulated, and the degree of overlap among downregulated genes was relatively high, whereas genes responding by upregulation to heat and other stress factors were more specific to the stress applied or to the conditions of the particular study. As an expected exception, heat shock genes were generally found to be upregulated by stress in general.