Potato cyst nematodes (PCNs), Globodera rostochiensis and G. pallida, cause important economic losses. They are hard to manage because of their ability to remain dormant in soil for many years. Although general knowledge about these plant parasitic nematodes has considerably increased over the past decades, very little is known about molecular events involved in cyst dormancy and hatching, two key steps of their development. Here, we have studied the progression of PCN transcriptomes from dry cysts to hatched juveniles using RNA-Seq. We found that several cell detoxification-related genes were highly active in the dry cysts. Many genes linked to an increase of calcium and water uptake were up-regulated during transition from dormancy to hydration. Exposure of hydrated cysts to host plant root exudates resulted in different transcriptional response between species. After 48 h of exposure, G. pallida cysts showed no significant modulation of gene expression while G. rostochiensis had 278 differentially expressed genes. The first G. rostochiensis significantly up-regulated gene was observed after 8 h and was coding for a transmembrane metalloprotease. This enzyme is able to activate/inactivate peptide hormones and could be involved in a cascade of events leading to hatching. Several known effector genes were also up-regulated during hatching.