Several cDNAs related to an ABA-induced cDNA from barley aleurone were isolated from barley and corn seedlings that were undergoing dehydration. Four different barley polypeptides with sizes of 22.6, 16.2, 14.4 and 14.2 kDa and a single corn polypeptide with a size of 17.0 kDa were predicted from the nucleotide sequences of the cDNAs. These dehydration-induced proteins (dehydrins) are very similar to each other and to a previously identified rice protein induced by ABA and salt, and have at least some similarity to a previously identified cotton embryo protein. Each dehydrin is extremely hydrophilic, glycine-rich, cysteine- and tryptophan-free and contains repeated units in a conserved linear order. A lysine-rich repeating unit occurs twice in each protein, once at the carboxy terminus and once partway through the polypeptide, adjacent to a succession of serines. This repeating unit and the adjacent flanking run of serines are conserved with minimal variation among all dehydrins. Another repeating unit is flanked by the two copies of the lysine-rich unit, and varies in number from one to five copies. This latter repeating unit is less conserved than the former, varying even within a singly dehydrin. The messenger RNAs corresponding to each cDNA are abundant in dehydrating, but not in well-watered seedlings. The amino acid sequence of tryptic peptides from purified dehydration-induced proteins of corn established that the corn cDNAs correspond to a protein that is produced in abundance during the response of corn seedlings to dehydration.