Nuclease-hypersensitive sites in chromatin exist at the 5′ side of many eukaryotic genes. To gain some understanding of the molecular basis of these hypersensitive sites, we have now examined the pair of sites upstream of the Drosophila hsp70 gene in a series of plasmids that contain deletions in the hypersensitive region and have been transformed into yeast cells. Hypersensitive sites 5′ to a Drosophila hsp70 gene are preserved when this gene is introduced into yeast by transformation1. We find that a yeast strain containing a plasmid in which the deletion extends through the first hypersensitive site still displays the normal pair of hypersensitive sites, so DNA sequences over which the first hypersensitive site is centred are not required for hypersensitivity at this position and the site can form over a foreign DNA sequence juxtaposed against this deletion end point. Deletions progressing further into the region bracketed by the pair of 5′ hypersensitive sites eliminate the first hypersensitive site and alter the downstream site. We propose that the hypersensitive sites are generated through the binding of a protein that renders flanking sequences more accessible to nucleases, perhaps by preventing normal chromatin packaging.