In the current study, we tested the effects of common environmental contaminants (the metals zinc and lead) on gene expression in Sydney rock oysters (Saccrostrea glomerata). Oysters were exposed to a range of metal concentrations under controlled laboratory conditions. The expression of 14 putative stress response genes was then measured using quantitative, real-time (q) PCR. The expression of all 14 genes was significantly affected (p < 0.05 vs. nonexposed controls) by at least one of the metals, and by at least one dose of metal. For 5 of the 14 target genes (actin, calmodulin, superoxide dismutase, topoisomerase I, and tubulin) the alteration of expression relative to controls was highest at intermediate (rather than high) doses of metals. Such responses may reflect adaptive (acclimation) reactions in gene expression at low to intermediate doses of contaminants, followed by a decline in expression resulting from exposure at higher doses. The data are discussed in terms of the intracellular pathways affected by metal contamination, and the relevance of such gene expression data to environmental biomonitoring. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 30: 989–998, 2015.