A human 70-kDa heat shock protein (hsp70) gene segment has been isolated. The segment contains 3.15 kilobase pairs (kbp) of 5' nontranscribed sequence, an RNA leader of 119 bp, and a protein-coding region of 741 bp. The human protein sequence shows a high degree of homology to hsp70 sequences from other species. Expression experiments in Xenopus oocytes and mammalian cells indicate that a region that includes only 105 bp of 5' nontranscribed sequence contains all elements required for the efficient heat-controlled expression of the human gene. Two adjacent identical sequence elements, which are partly homologous to the Drosophila "heat shock consensus" sequence, are located 57 to 76 bp upstream from the capping site. Interestingly, the capping site itself is flanked by inverted repeat sequences.