The transcription factors DREB1s/CBFs specifically interact with the DRE/CRT cis-acting element (core motif: G/ACCGAC) and control the expression of many stress-inducible genes in Arabidopsis. We isolated a cDNA for a DREB1/CBF homolog, ZmDREB1A in maize using a yeast one-hybrid system. The ZmDREB1A proteins specifically bound to DRE and the highly conserved valine at the 14th residue in the ERF/AP2 DNA binding domain was a key to determining the specific interaction between this protein and the DRE sequence. Expression of ZmDREB1A was induced by cold stress and slightly increased by high-salinity stress. This gene was also transiently expressed by mechanical attack. ZmDREB1A activated the transcription of the GUS reporter gene driven by DRE in rice protoplasts. Overexpression of ZmDREB1A in transgenic Arabidopsis induced overexpression of target stress-inducible genes of Arabidopsis DREB1A resulting in plants with higher tolerance to drought and freezing stresses. This indicated that ZmDREB1A has functional similarity to DREB1s/CBFs in Arabidopsis. The structure of the ERF/AP2 domain of ZmDREB1A in maize is closely related to DREB1-type ERF/AP2 domains in the monocots as compared with that in the dicots. ZmDREB1A is suggested to be potentially useful for producing transgenic plants that is tolerant to drought, high-salinity and/or cold stresses.