Expression of the barley dehydrin multigene family and the development of freezing tolerance
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Dehydrins (DHNs; LEA D11) are one of the typical families of plant proteins that accumulate in response to dehydration, low temperature, osmotic stress or treatment with abscisic acid (ABA), or during seed maturation. We previously found that three genes encoding low-molecular-weight DHNs (Dhn1, Dhn2 and Dhn9) map within a 15-cM region of barley chromosome 5H that overlaps a QTL for winterhardiness, while other Dhn genes encoding low- and high-molecular-weight DHNs are located on chromosomes 3H, 4H and 6H. Here we examine the expression of specific Dhn genes under conditions associated with expression of the winterhardiness phenotype. Plants grown at 4°C or in the field in Riverside, California developed similar, modest levels of freezing tolerance, coinciding with little low-MW Dhn gene activity. Dicktoo (the more tolerant cultivar) and Morex (the less tolerant) grown in Saskatoon, Canada had higher levels of expression of genes for low-MW DHNs than did the same cultivars in Riverside, with expression being higher in Dicktoo than Morex. Dehydration or freeze-thaw also evoked expression of genes for low MW DHNs, suggesting that the dehydration component of freeze-thaw in the field induces expression of genes encoding low-MW DHNs. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that the major chilling-induced DHNs help to prime plant cells for acclimation to more intense cold, which then involves adaptation to dehydration during freeze-thaw cycling. A role for chromosome 5H-encoded DHNs in acclimation to more intense cold seems possible, even though it is not the basis of the major heritable variation in winterhardiness within the Dicktoo × Morex population.
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