Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica E. Desv.), the only grass indigenous to Antarctica, has well-developed freezing tolerance, strongly induced by cold acclimation. Here, we show that in response to low temperatures, D. antarctica expresses potent recrystallization inhibition (RI) activity that, inhibits the growth of small ice crystals into potentially damaging large ones, is proteinaceous and localized to the apoplasm. A gene family from D. antarctica encoding putative homologs of an ice recrystallization inhibition protein (IRIP) has been isolated and characterized. IRIPs are apoplastically targeted proteins with two potential ice-binding motifs: 1-9 leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) and c. 16 'IRIP' repeats. IRIP genes appear to be confined to the grass subfamily Pooideae and their products, exhibit sequence similarity to phytosulphokine receptors and are predicted to adopt conformations with two ice-binding surfaces. D. antarctica IRIP (DaIRIP) transcript levels are greatly enhanced in leaf tissue following cold acclimation. Transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana expressing a DaIRIP has novel RI activity, and purified DaIRIP, when added back to extracts of leaves from non-acclimated D. antarctica, can reconstitute the activity found in acclimated plants. We propose that IRIP-mediated RI activity may contribute to the cryotolerance of D. antarctica, and thus to its unique ability to have colonized Antarctica.