Expression of the acidic dehydrin gene wcor410 was found to be associated with the development of freezing tolerance in several Gramineae species. This gene is part of a family of three homologous members, wcor410, wcor410b, and wcor410c, that have been mapped to the long arms of the homologous group 6 chromosomes of hexaploid wheat. To gain insight into the function of this gene family, antibodies were raised against the WCOR410 protein and affinity purified to eliminate cross-reactivity with the WCS120 dehydrin-like protein of wheat. Protein gel blot analyses showed that the accumulation of WCOR410 proteins correlates well with the capacity of each cultivar to cold acclimate and develop freezing tolerance. Immunoelectron microscope analyses revealed that these proteins accumulate in the vicinity of the plasma membrane of cells in the sensitive vascular transition area where freeze-induced dehydration is likely to be more severe. Biochemical fractionation experiments indicated that WCOR410 is a peripheral protein and not an integral membrane protein. These results provide direct evidence that a subtype of the dehydrin family accumulates near the plasma membrane. The properties, abundance, and localization of these proteins suggest that they are involved in the cryoprotection of the plasma membrane against freezing or dehydration stress. We propose that WCOR410 plays a role in preventing the destabilization of the plasma membrane that occurs during dehydrative conditions.
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