The effect of xenobiotics (phenobarbital and atrazine) on the expression of Drosophila melanogaster CYP genes encoding cytochromes P450, a gene family generally associated with detoxification, was analyzed by DNA microarray hybridization and verified by real-time RT-PCR in adults of both sexes. Only a small subset of the 86 CYP genes was significantly induced by the xenobiotics. Eleven CYP genes and three glutathione S-transferases (GST) genes were significantly induced by phenobarbital, seven CYP and one GST gene were induced by atrazine. Cyp6d5, Cyp6w1, Cyp12d1 and the ecdysone-inducible Cyp6a2 were induced by both chemicals. The constitutive expression of several of the inducible genes (Cyp6a2, Cyp6a8, Cyp6d5, Cyp12d1) was higher in males than in females, and the induced level similar in both sexes. Thus, the level of induction was consistently higher in females than in males. The female-specific and hormonally regulated yolk protein genes were significantly induced by phenobarbital in males and repressed by atrazine in females. Our, results suggest that the numerous CYP genes of Drosophila respond selectively to xenobiotics, providing the fly with an adaptive response to chemically adverse environments. The xenobiotic inducibility of some CYP genes previously associated with insecticide resistance in laboratory-selected strains (Cyp6a2, Cyp6a8, Cyp12d1) suggests that deregulation of P450 gene expression may be a facile way to achieve resistance. Our study also suggests that xenobiotic-induced changes in P450 levels can affect insect fitness by interfering with hormonally regulated networks. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.