The C-terminal domain (CTD) of the RNA polymerase II largest subunit (RPB1) plays a central role in transcription. The CTD is unphosphorylated when the polymerase assembles into a preinitiation complex of transcription and becomes heavily phosphorylated during promoter clearance and entry into elongation of transcription. A kinase associated to the general transcription factor TFIIH, in the preinitiation complex, phosphorylates the CTD. The TFIIH-associated CTD kinase activity was found to decrease in extracts from heat-shocked HeLa cells compared to unstressed cells. This loss of activity correlated with a decreased solubility of the TFIIH factor. The TFIIH-kinase impairment during heat-shock was accompanied by the disappearance of a particular phosphoepitope (CC-3) on the RPB1 subunit. The CC-3 epitope was localized on the C-terminal end of the CTD and generated in vitro when the RPB1 subunit was phosphorylated by the TFIIH-associated kinase but not by another CTD kinase such as MAP kinase. In apparent discrepancy, the overall RPB1 subunit phosphorylation increased during heat-shock. The decreased activity in vivo of the TFIIH kinase might be compensated by a stress-activated CTD kinase such as MAP kinase. These results also suggest that heat-shock gene transcription may have a weak requirement for TFIIH kinase activity.