Under conditions of heat shock at 42 degrees C, mRNAs of HSP (heat shock protein) genes are exported out of the nucleus, whereas bulk poly(A)(+) (polyadenylated) mRNA shows a nuclear accumulation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Such a selective mRNA export seems an efficacious strategy of yeast cells to adapt rapidly to stress. Although ethanol stress (10%, v/v) as well as heat shock blocks the export of bulk poly(A)(+) mRNA, the differences and/or similarity between heat shock and ethanol stress in the mechanisms of selective mRNA export still remain to be clarified. We found that ethanol stress induced transcriptional activation of a subset of yeast HSP genes; however, intriguingly, most such transcripts remained in the nucleus in a hyperadenylated state and, as a consequence, were not translated into HSPs. Elimination of ethanol resulted in a rapid shortening of the poly(A) tails of HSP mRNAs, loss of their nuclear retention, and the coincidental synthesis of the respective HSPs. Since HSP mRNAs are selectively exported from the nucleus in heat-shocked cells, yeast cells respond differently to ethanol stress and heat shock in the 3'-processing and transport of HSP mRNAs. Furthermore, these results also suggest that hyperadenylation and nuclear retention of mRNAs might be used as a means to control eukaryotic gene expression under stressed conditions.