Exposure of seedlings of a chilling-sensitive variety of rice (Oryza sativa L. cv. Wasetoittu) to water stress (0.5 M mannitol, 30 min) at room temperature induced a degree of chilling resistance. No such resistance was induced by exogenous abscisic acid (ABA) application (10 microM, 60 min). Upon short-term water stress, new transcripts were expressed in both seedlings and suspension-cultured cells. We suggest that the genes induced by short-term water stress, and not those induced by ABA, are related to acquired chilling resistance in this chilling-sensitive rice variety. A total of nine different cDNA clones, specifically induced by short-term water stress, were isolated by differential hybridization and partial sequencing. Northern hybridization analysis using RNAs from the seedlings subjected to chilling after water stress treatment reveal three distinct groups of above mentioned nine cDNA clones: wsi (water stress-induced) 18, 76, and 724, representative of genes whose expression increases, decreases, and remains almost fixed during chilling, respectively. The nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequences of the three representative clones were determined. Characteristic features of wsi18 are the presence of one set of amino acid sequence repeats, a conserved amino acid sequence common to LEA-group genes in the N-terminal region, and an alanine- and lysine-rich tract in the C-terminal region.