The release of vast quantities of DNA sequence data by large-scale genome and expressed sequence tag (EST) projects underlines the necessity for the development of efficient and inexpensive ways to link sequence databases with temporal and spatial expression profiles. Here we demonstrate the power of linking cDNA sequence data (including EST sequences) with transcript profiles revealed by cDNA-AFLP, a highly reproducible differential display method based on restriction enzyme digests and selective amplification under high stringency conditions. We have developed a computer program (GenEST) that predicts the sizes of virtual transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) of in silico-digested cDNA sequences retrieved from databases. The vast majority of the resulting virtual TDFs could be traced back among the thousands of TDFs displayed on cDNA-AFLP gels. Sequencing of the corresponding bands excised from cDNA-AFLP gels revealed no inconsistencies. As a consequence, cDNA sequence databases can be screened very efficiently to identify genes with relevant expression profiles. The other way round, it is possible to switch from cDNA-AFLP gels to sequences in the databases. Using the restriction enzyme recognition sites, the primer extensions and the estimated TDF size as identifiers, the DNA sequence(s) corresponding to a TDF with an interesting expression pattern can be identified. In this paper we show examples in both directions by analyzing the plant parasitic nematode Globodera rostochiensis. Various novel pathogenicity factors were identified by combining ESTs from the infective stage juveniles with expression profiles of 4000 genes in five developmental stages produced by cDNA-AFLP.