Cold hardening is necessary to achieve the genetically determined maximum freezing tolerance and to reduce yield losses in winter cereals. The aim of the present study was to determine a set of genes with an important role in this process, by comparing of chromosome 5A substitution lines with different levels of freezing tolerance, since chromosome 5A is a major regulator of this trait. During 21 days of treatment at 2°C, 303 genes were upregulated, while 222 were down-regulated at most sampling points, and 156 at around half of them (out of the 10,297 unigenes studied). The freezing-tolerant substitution line exhibited 1.5 times as many differentially expressed genes than the sensitive one. The transcription of 78 genes (39 up-regulated) proved to be chromosome 5Adependent. These genes encoded proteins involved in transcriptional regulation, defence processes and carbohydrate metabolism. Three of the chromosome 5A-related genes, coding for a cold-responsive, a Ca-binding and an embryo and meristem-related protein, were genetically mapped and characterized in further detail. The present experimental system was appropriate for the selection of chromosome 5A-related genes involved in short- and long-term cold acclimation in wheat. By modifying the expression of these genes it may be possible to improve freezing tolerance.