Gene expression in a developmentally arrested, long-lived dauer population of Caenorhabditis elegans was compared with a nondauer (mixed-stage) population by using serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE). Dauer (152,314) and nondauer (148,324) SAGE tags identified 11,130 of the predicted 19,100 C. elegans genes. Genes implicated previously in longevity were expressed abundantly in the dauer library, and new genes potentially important in dauer biology were discovered. Two thousand six hundred eighteen genes were detected only in the nondauer population, whereas 2016 genes were detected only in the dauer, showing that dauer larvae show a surprisingly complex gene expression profile. Evidence for differentially expressed gene transcript isoforms was obtained for 162 genes. H1 histones were differentially expressed, raising the possibility of alternative chromatin packaging. The most abundant tag from dauer larvae (20-fold more abundant than in the nondauer profile) corresponds to a new, unpredicted gene we have named tts-1 (transcribed telomere-like sequence), which may interact with telomeres or telomere-associated proteins. Abundant antisense mitochondrial transcripts (2% of all tags), suggest the existence of an antisense-mediated regulatory mechanism in C. elegans mitochondria. In addition to providing a robust tool for gene expression studies, the SAGE approach already has provided the advantage of new gene/transcript discovery in a metazoan.