The nutritional state of an organism can affect the results of toxicity testing. Here we exemplified this fact by examining the effect of nutritional deprivation on heat shock protein 60 (hsp60) production in the rotifer Brachionus plicatilis following exposure to two proven inducers of hsp60, a water-accommodated fraction of crude oil (WAF) and a dispersed oil preparation (DO). Both DO and WAF exposures of unfed rotifers resulted in significantly greater hsp60 levels than that of fed DO and WAF exposed rotifers at 8 h: 870 and 3100% of control, respectively. Results clearly demonstrate that a poor nutritional state potentiates stress protein induction upon exposure to water-soluble petroleum products. It is therefore critical to define the organismal nutritional status when reporting toxic responses.