RNAs for the small heat shock protein (hsp) genes hsp22 and hsp23 are induced during Drosophila aging, suggesting that these genes might have specific functions at late ages. To determine if hsp22 and hsp23 gene expression might correlate with life span, RNA levels for these and additional genes were analyzed throughout the adult life span in a set of five outbred "O" lines, which have been genetically selected for increased longevity, and in five matched control "B" lines. Control ribosomal protein genes rp49 and AP3/RpPO RNA levels were similar in O and B lines. In contrast, hsp22 RNA levels were twofold-tenfold higher in all five O lines relative to all five B lines, while hsp23 exhibited a smaller but significant increase. Thus increased hsp22 and hsp23 RNA levels correlate with the increased life span and increased stress resistance of the genetically selected O lines.