Analysis of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) was performed to gain insights into cold adaptation in the polar diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus Grunow. The EST library was generated from RNA isolated 5 days after F. cylindrus cells were shifted from approximately +5°C to -1.8°C. A total of 1376 ESTs were sequenced from a non-normalized cDNA library and assembled into 996 tentative unique sequences. About 27% of the ESTs displayed similarity (tBLASTX, e-value of =10-4) to predicted proteins in the centric diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana Hasle & Heindal. Eleven additional algae and plant data bases were used for annotation of sequences not covered by Thalassiosira sequences (7%). Most of the ESTs were similar to genes encoding proteins responsible for translation, ribosomal structure, and biogenesis (3%), followed by genes encoding proteins for amino acid transport and metabolism and post-translational modifications. Interestingly, 66% of all the EST sequences from F. cylindrus displayed no similarity (e-value =10-4) to sequences from the 12 non-redundant databases. Even 6 of the 10 strong to moderately expressed sequences in this EST library could not be identified. Adaptation of F. cylindrus to freezing temperatures of seawater may require a complex protein metabolism and possibly also genes, which were highly expressed but still unknown. However, it could also mean that due to low temperatures, there might have been a stronger pressure to adapt amino acid sequences, making it more difficult to identify these unknown sequences and/or that there are still few protist sequences available for comparison.