The soil-living springtail Folsomia candida is frequently used in reproduction bioassays to assess soil contamination. Alternatively, the response of genes to contamination is assessed. In this study the expression of F. candida's gene encoding the deduced metallothionein-like motif containing protein (MTC) was assessed, using quantitative PCR, in response to six different metals, each at two concentrations in soil. The expression of mtc was induced after exposure to all metals, except for one chromium concentration. Exposure to soil originating from metal-contaminated field sites also induced mtc, while the expression did not change in response to a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. Since this transcript is induced by most of the tested metals, it may potentially be a good indicator of metal contamination. The presented gene expression assay might become a useful tool to screen potentially polluted sites, in order to identify the ones that need further ecotoxicological investigation. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.