Suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) was performed to isolate cDNAs representing genes that are differentially expressed in leaves of Fagus sylvatica upon ozone exposure. 1248 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were obtained from 2 subtractive libraries containing early and late ozone-responsive genes. Sequences of 1139 clones (91 %) matched the EBI/NCBI database entries. For 578 clones, no putative function could be assigned. Most abundant transcripts were O-methyltransferases, representing 7 % of all sequenced clones. ESTs were organized into 12 functional categories according to the MIPS database. Among them, 12 % (early)/15 % (late) were associated with disease and defence, 19/11 % with cell structure, 4/10 % with signal transduction, and 9/6 % with transcription. The expression pattern of selected ESTs (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase small subunit [rbcS], WRKY-type transcription factor, ultraviolet-B-repressible protein, aquaporine, glutathione S-transferase, catalase, caffeic acid O-methyltransferase, and pathogenesis-related protein 1 [PR1]) was analysed by quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) which confirmed changed transcript levels upon ozone treatment of European beech saplings. The ESTs characterized will contribute to a better understanding of forest tree genomics and also to a comparison of ozone-responsive genes in woody and herbaceous plants.