• Acclimation;
  • antioxidants;
  • freezing;
  • oxygen free radicals;
  • phospholipid de-esterification;
  • superoxide;
  • Triticum aestivum;
  • wheat;
  • winterhardiness

The symptoms of injury in microsomal membranes isolated from crowns of seedlings of Triticum aestivum, L. cultivar Fredrick after a lethal freeze-thaw stress included an increased lipid phase transition temperature, loss of lipid phosphate (lipid-P), and increased free fatty acid levels. However, minimal changes in fatty acid saturation were observed, suggesting minimal amounts of lipid peroxidation. All of these injury symptoms, including the lack of lipid peroxidation, were simulated in vitro by treatment of isolated membranes with oxygen free radicals, generated from either xanthine oxidase (EC or paraquat (l,r-dimethyl-4,4′-bipyridinium dichloride). Further evidence indicating a relationship between free radicals and freezing injury comes from the observation that both protoplasts and microsomal membranes isolated from wheat seedlings, that had been acclimated to induce freezing tolerance, also had increased tolerance of oxygen free radicals, and contained higher lipid-soluble antioxidant levels, than those from non-acclimated seedlings. Lipid-soluble antioxidants accumulated in the crown tissue of the wheat seedling during the acclimation period. Freezing stress accelerated the formation of oxygen free radicals. Membranes isolated from crowns after a freeze–thaw stress tended to produce higher levels of superoxide as shown by the reduction of Tiron (1,2-dihydroxy-l,3-benzenedisulfonic acid). In protoplasts, increased superoxide production coincided with lethal freezing injury. These results are discussed in terms of the possible involvement of oxygen free radicals in mediating aspects of freezing injury to cell membranes.