A method is described for the identification of conserved genes in one plant species by using sequence information on internal motifs from well-characterized clones from another species. This sequence information is used to design primers for reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and to design oligonucleotide probes to identify genuine positive amplification products. The approach was successfully used to clone cDNAs encoding cold-inducible dehydrin-like genes from the woody perennial black currant, Ribes nigrum. The strategy described can accelerate the cloning of heterologous cDNAs and is a convenient alternative to direct screening of cDNA libraries.