Progress in freezing tolerance (FT) improvement through plant breeding approaches has met with little success in the last 50 years. Engineering plants for greater FT through plant transformation is one possible way to reduce the damage caused by freezing. Here, we report an improvement of the selection procedure and the transfer of the wheat Wcor410a acidic dehydrin gene in strawberry. The encoded protein has previously been shown to be associated with the plasma membrane, and its level of accumulation has been correlated with the degree of FT in different wheat genotypes. The WCOR410 protein was expressed in transgenic strawberry at a level comparable with that in cold-acclimated wheat. Freezing tests showed that cold-acclimated transgenic strawberry leaves had a 5 °C improvement of FT over wild-type or transformed leaves not expressing the WCOR410 protein. However, no difference in FT was found between the different plants under non-acclimated conditions, suggesting that the WCOR410 protein needs to be activated by another factor induced during cold acclimation. These data demonstrate that the WCOR410 protein prevents membrane injury and greatly improves FT in leaves of transgenic strawberry. A better understanding of the limiting factors allowing its activation may open up the way for engineering FT in different plant organs, and may find applications for the cryopreservation of human tissues and organs.
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