Background: Some plant species have 'melanin-like' black seed pigmentation. However, the chemical and genetic nature of this 'melanin-like' black pigment have not yet been fully explored due to its complex structure and ability to withstand almost all solvents. Nevertheless, identification of genetic networks participating in trait formation is key to understanding metabolic processes involved in the expression of 'melanin-like' black seed pigmentation. The aim of the current study was to identify differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in barley near-isogenic lines (NILs) differing by allelic state of the Blp (black lemma and pericarp) locus. Results: RNA-seq analysis of six libraries (three replicates for each line) was performed. A total of 957 genome fragments had statistically significant changes in expression levels between lines BLP and BW, with 632 fragments having increased expression levels in line BLP and 325 genome fragments having decreased expression. Among identified DEGs, 191 genes were recognized as participating in known pathways. Among these were metabolic pathways including 'suberin monomer biosynthesis', 'diterpene phytoalexins precursors biosynthesis', 'cutin biosynthesis', 'cuticular wax biosynthesis', and 'phenylpropanoid biosynthesis, initial reactions'. Differential expression was confirmed by real-time PCR analysis of selected genes. Conclusions: Metabolic pathways and genes presumably associated with black lemma and pericarp colour as well as Blp-associated resistance to oxidative stress and pathogens, were revealed. We suggest that the black pigmentation of lemmas and pericarps is related to increased level of phenolic compounds and their oxidation. The effect of functional Blp on the synthesis of ferulic acid and other phenolic compounds can explain the increased antioxidant capacity and biotic and abiotic stress tolerance of black-grained cereals. Their drought tolerance and resistance to diseases affecting the spike may also be related to cuticular wax biosynthesis. In addition, upregulated synthesis of phytoalexins, suberin and universal stress protein (USP) in lemmas and pericarps of the Blp carriers may contribute to their increased disease resistance. Further description of the DEGs haplotypes and study of their association with physiological characteristics may be useful for future application in barley pre-breeding.