One of the effects of a temperature increase above 35 degrees C on Drosophila melanogaster is a rapid switch in selectivity of the translational apparatus. Protein synthesis from normal, but not from heat shock, mRNA is much reduced. Efficient translation at high temperature might be a result of the primary sequence of heat shock genes. Alternatively a mRNA modification mechanism, altered as a consequence of heat shock, might allow for efficient high temperature translation of any mRNA synthesized during a heat shock. The gene for alcohol dehydrogenase (Adh) was fused to the controlling elements of a heat shock protein 70 (hsp70) gene. Authentic Adh mRNA, synthesized from this fusion gene at elevated temperatures was not translated during heat shock. A second Adh fusion gene in which the mRNA synthesized contained the first 95 nucleotides of the Hsp70 non-translated leader sequence gave rise, at high temperature, to mRNA which was translated during the heat shock. Thus, the signal(s) in the mRNAs controlling translation efficiency at heat shock temperatures is encoded within the heat shock genes.