Drought is the major environmental problem limiting the productivity and survival of plant species. Here, previously identified three black poplar genotypes having contrasting response to drought were subjected to gradual soil water depletion in a pot trial to identify their physiological, morphological and antioxidation related adaptations. We also performed a microarray based transcriptome analyses on the leaves of genotypes by using Affymetrix poplar Genome Array containing 56,000 transcripts. Phenotypic analyses of each genotype confirmed their differential adaptations to drought that could be classified as drought escape, avoidance and tolerance. Comparative transcriptomic analysis indicated highly divergent gene expression patterns among the genotypes in response to drought and post drought re-watering (PDR). We identified 10641, 3824 and 9411 transcripts exclusively regulated in drought escape, avoidance and tolerant genotypes, respectively. The key genes involved in metabolic pathways, such as carbohydrate metabolism, photosynthesis, lipid metabolism, generation of precursor metabolites/energy, protein folding, redox homeostasis, secondary metabolic process and cell wall component biogenesis, were affected by drought stresses in the leaves of these genotypes. Transcript isoforms showed increased expression specificity in the genes coding for bark storage proteins and small heat shock proteins in drought tolerant genotype. On the other hand, drought-avoiding genotype specifically induced the transcripts annotated to the genes functional in secondary metabolite production that linked to enhanced leaf water content and growth performance under drought stress. Transcriptome profiling of drought escape genotype indicated specific regulation of the genes functional in programmed cell death and leaf senescence. Specific upregulation of GTP cyclohydrolase II and transcription factors (WRKY and ERFs) in only this genotype were associated to ROS dependent signalling pathways and gene regulation network responsible in induction of many degrading enzymes acting on cell wall carbohydrates, fatty acids and proteins under drought stress. Our findings provide new insights into the transcriptome dynamics and components of regulatory network associated with drought adaptation strategies. (C) 2017 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.