To investigate the use of stress proteins hsp60 and hsp70 as sublethal biomarkers for contaminant exposure in sediments, two infaunal (Ampelisca abdita, estuarine; Rhepoxynius abronius, marine) and one epifaunal (Hyalella azteca, freshwater) amphipod species were exposed for 24 h to solutions of the heavy metal cadmium, the pesticides diazinon and dieldrin, and the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon fluoranthene. All three species are routinely used in standard sediment toxicity tests. Analysis of hsp60 and hsp70 was performed using western blotting techniques with subsequent comparative quantification by densitometry. Results demonstrated compound and species-specific induction of stress protein synthesis. Whereas one member of the hps70 protein family showed the most sensitive response to xenobiotic compounds in H. azteca, several members of the hsp60 protein family were the main proteins induced in A. abdita and R. abronius. Sensitivity of the detected stress protein response was highest in H. azteca with significant effects at concentrations 110-, 50-, >1,000-, and >1-fold lower than LC50 values for cadmium, diazinon, dieldrin, and fluoranthene, respectively. The corresponding values were >5 (cadmium), 0.7 (diazinon), >1 (dieldrin), and 2.9 (fluoranthene) for A. abdita, and >2 (cadmium), 3.1 (diazinon), >100 (dieldrin), and >2.9 (fluoranthene) for R. abronius.