Expressed sequence tag (EST) markers have been used to assess variety and genetic diversity in wheat (Triticum aestivum). In this study, 1549 ESTs from wheat infested with yellow rust were used to examine the genetic diversity of six susceptible and resistant wheat cultivars. The aim of using these cultivars was to improve the competitiveness of public wheat breeding programs through the intensive use of modern, particularly marker-assisted, selection technologies. The F 2 individuals derived from cultivar crosses were screened for resistance to yellow rust at the seedling stage in greenhouses and adult stage in the field to identify DNA markers genetically linked to resistance. Five hundred and sixty ESTs were assembled into 136 contigs and 989 singletons. BlastX search results showed that 39 (29%) contigs and 96 (10%) singletons were homologous to wheat genes. The database-matched contigs and singletons were assigned to eight functional groups related to protein synthesis, photosynthesis, metabolism and energy, stress proteins, transporter proteins, protein breakdown and recycling, cell growth and division and reactive oxygen scavengers. PCR analyses with primers based on the contigs and singletons showed that the most polymorphic functional categories were photosynthesis (contigs) and metabolism and energy (singletons). EST analysis revealed considerable genetic variability among the Turkish wheat cultivars resistant and susceptible to yellow rust disease and allowed calculation of the mean genetic distance between cultivars, with the greatest similarity (0.725) being between Harmankaya99 and SOnmez2001, and the lowest (0.622) between Aytin98 and Izgi01.