To understand the molecular genetic basis underlying drought tolerance in grasses, the cDNA-amplified fragment length polymorphism (cDNA-AFLP) technique was applied for identification of genes responding to drought stress in a xerophytic adapted plant, Festuca mairei. A total of 11,346 transcript derived fragments (TDFs) were detected, and 464 (4.1%) TDFs were identified as differentially expressed fragments (DEFs) during the drought treatment of the plant. The expression patterns of these DEFs included up-regulated ( approximately 30%), down-regulated ( approximately 54.3%), and the remainder ( approximately 16.7%) showing transient changes. The differential expression patterns of 171 DEFs were further confirmed by macroarray hybridization analysis. Sequences had been obtained for 163 DEFs, and 62 sequences had no significant hits to sequences currently in public databases. Predicted functions of remaining 101 sequences were subdivided into 17 categories. Down-regulated genes were highly represented by metabolism and cellular biogenesis. Up-regulated DEFs were enriched in genes involved in transcription, defense, cell cycle and DNA processing. Analysis of the 163 DEFs provides a first glimpse into the transcripts of F. mairei during drought stress treatment. The combination of data from studies on genetic model plants and on diverse plant species will enhance understanding of the drought tolerance mechanisms in plants.