To evaluate the role of ethylene in cold acclimation and cold stress, freezing tolerance and characteristics associated with cold acclimation were investigated using legume model plant Medicago truncatula Gaertn Jemalong A17. There was a rapid suppression of ethylene production during cold acclimation in A17 plants. Ethylene level was negatively correlated with freezing tolerance as inhibition of ethylene biosynthesis by inhibitors of ethylene biosynthesis enhanced freezing tolerance, while exogenous application of ethylene reduced cold acclimation-induced freezing tolerance. The involvement of ethylene signaling in modulation of freezing tolerance and cold acclimation was further studied using ethylene-insensitive mutant sickle skl. Although skl mutant was more tolerant to freezing than its wild-type counterpart A17 plants, cold acclimation enhanced freezing tolerance in 17 plants, but not in skl mutant. Expression of several ethylene response genes including EIN3, EIN3/EIL and ERFs was suppressed in skl mutant compared to A17 plants under non-cold-acclimated conditions. Cold acclimation downregulated expression of EIN3, EIN3/EIL and ERFs in A17 plants, while expression patterns of these genes were relatively constant in skl mutant during cold acclimation. Cold acclimation-induced increases in transcription of MtCBFs and MtCAS15 were suppressed in skl mutant compared with A17 plants. These results suggest that MtSKL1 is required for perception of the change of ethylene level in M. truncatula plants for the full development of the cold acclimation response by suppressing expression of MtEIN3 and MtEIN3/EIL1, which in turn downregulates expression of MtERFs, leading to the enhanced tolerance of M. truncatula to freezing by upregulating MtCBFs and MtCAS15.