The transcriptional activity of the topA gene which codes for topoisomerase I was examined. An in vitro assay determined that the P1 promoter was dependent on the sigma 32 subunit of RNA polymerase. The transcriptional activity of the four topA promoters was examined by nuclease S1 mapping of the transcripts during a heat shock. This sigma 32-dependent promoter was shown to function as a heat shock promoter, although topoisomerase I is not a heat shock protein. A possible method of compensation of transcription activity by the other promoters to maintain the level of topoisomerase I during heat shock is proposed.