Camptothecin stabilizes the topoisomerase I-DNA covalent intermediate that forms during the relaxation of torsionally strained DNA. By mapping the position of the resultant DNA nicks, we analyzed the distribution of the covalent intermediates formed on heat shock genes in cultured Drosophila melanogaster cells. Topoisomerase I was found to interact with the transcriptionally active genes hsp22, hsp23, hsp26, and hsp28 after heat shock but not with the inactive genes before heat shock. The interaction occurred predominantly within the transcribed region, with specific sites occurring on both the transcribed and nontranscribed strands of the DNA. Little interaction was seen with nontranscribed flanking sequences. Camptothecin only partially inhibited transcription of the hsp28 gene during heat shock, causing a reduced level of transcripts which were nonetheless full length. Topoisomerase I also interacted with the DNA throughout the transcriptionally active hsp83 gene, including an intron, in both heat-shocked and non-heat-shocked cells. The results point to a dynamic set of interactions at the active locus.