The relationship between tolerance of seeds to extreme desiccation and the presence of ‘dehydrinlike’ proteins was investigated in groups of related taxa from the unrelated plant families Aceraceae and Gramineae. Dehydrin-like proteins were identified by Western blot analysis using an antibody raised against a synthetic oligopeptide representing the 23-amino acid consensus sequence common to all group 2 late-embryogenesis-abundant (LEA) proteins.
Evidence is presented that seeds of Acer pseudoplatanus and A. saccharinum are desiccation intolerant (recalcitrant) whereas seeds of A. platanoides and A. rubrum are desiccation tolerant (orthodox). Despite these differences, dehydrinlike proteins at 60 and 20 kDa were detected in all four species.
Dehydrins at 20 kDa were also detected in seed samples of two aquatic grasses, Porteresia coarctata and Oryza sativa from the tribe Oryzeae, despite seeds of the former rapidly losing viability on drying, whereas O. sativa is one of the best-known examples of desiccation-tolerant seeds. In O. sativa, there was a correlation between contents of dehydrins detected and the proportion of individuals capable of withstanding extreme drying. However, the possibility of a causal link between these parameters is equivocal. Dehydrin-like proteins were also detected in desiccation-sensitive seeds of Zizania palustris, Z. latifolia and Z. texana and desiccation-intolerant seeds of Spartina anglica, all from the Gramineae.
The presence of group 2 LEAs is clearly not diagnostic of desiccation tolerance in seeds. However, a more direct correlation with the expression of other groups of LEAs cannot be discounted.