Abstract Trifoliate orange ( Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.) is extremely cold hardy when fully acclimated, but knowledge relevant to the molecular events underlying the acclimation is still limited so far. In this study, forward (4 °C over 25 °C) and reverse (25 °C over 4 °C) suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) libraries were constructed in order to identify the genes involved in cold acclimation in trifoliate orange. After reverse northern blotting analysis and sequencing, a total of 105 and 117 non-redundant differentially expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were obtained from the forward and reverse libraries, respectively. Blast2go analysis revealed that 91 ESTs, 31 from the forward library and 60 from the reverse library, displayed significant sequence homology to the genes with known or putative functions. They were categorized into various functional groups, including catalytic activity, binding protein, structural molecule, enzyme regulator, molecular transducer, electron carrier, and transport activity/transcription regulation. Expression analysis of the selected ESTs by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction was consistent with the results of differential screening. In addition, time-course expression patterns of the genes further confirmed that they were responsive to low temperature treatment. Among the genes of known functions, many are related to maintenance of cell wall integrity, adjustment of osmotic potential and maintenance of reactive oxygen species homeostasis, implying that these physiological processes might be of paramount significance in rendering protective mechanisms against the low temperature stress. The data presented here gain an insight into the molecular changes underlying the cold acclimation of trifoliate orange, and the results can be of reference for unraveling candidate genes that hold great potential for genetic engineering in an effort to create novel germplasms with enhanced cold stress tolerance.