Heat shock is believed to be a developmental inductor of differentiation in Leishmania. Furthermore, heat shock genes are extensively studied as gene models to decipher mechanisms of gene regulation in kinetoplastids. Here, we describe the organization and expression of the HSP70 loci in representative Leishmania species (L. infantum, L. major, L. tropica, L. mexicana, L. amazonensis and L. braziliensis). With the exception of L. braziliensis, the organization of the HSP70 loci was found to be well conserved among the other Leishmania species. Two types of genes, HSP70-I and HSP70-II, were found to be present in these Leishmania species except for L. braziliensis that lacks HSP70-II gene. Polymorphisms in the HSP70 locus allow the differentiation of the Old and New World species within the subgenus Leishmania. A notable discrepancy between our data and those of the L. major genome database in relation to the gene copy number composing the L. major HSP70 locus was revealed. The temperature-dependent accumulation of the HSP70-I mRNAs is also conserved among the different Leishmania species with the exception of L. braziliensis. In spite of these differences, analysis of the HSP70 synthesis indicated that the HSP70 mRNAs are also preferentially translated during heat shock in L. braziliensis.