We have studied two lines of sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) selected in the field as drought-tolerant (R1 genotype) or drought-sensitive (S1 genotype). When subjected to drought conditions, the R1 line was able to maintain high leaf water potential longer and wilted later than the S1 line. Therefore, this indicates that R1 tolerance includes a leaf-adaptive response. By subtractive hybridization, we have isolated six different cDNAs (designated sdi for sunflower drought-induced) corresponding to transcripts accumulated in R1 and S1 leaves during adaptive response. Analysis of transcript accumulation in response to drought in both genotypes suggests a preferential expression of three sdi genes in the tolerant line. Abscisic acid-mediated induction, analysed in R1 leaves, was observed for only four sdi genes. Sequence analysis of six sdi clones revealed that five clones were related to known proteins including non specific lipid transfer proteins (nsLTP), early light-induced proteins (ELIP), l-aminocyclopropane-l-carboxylate oxidase (ACC oxidase) or dehydrins, predicted to be involved in a wide range of physiological processes.