Mechanism of Self-Sterility in a Hermaphroditic Chordate

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Science  25 Apr 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5875, pp. 548-550
DOI: 10.1126/science.1152488

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Hermaphroditic organisms avoid inbreeding by a system of self-incompatibility (SI). A primitive chordate (ascidian) Ciona intestinalis is an example of such an organism, but the molecular mechanism underlying its SI system is not known. Here, we show that the SI system is governed by two gene loci that act cooperatively. Each locus contains a tightly linked pair of polycystin 1–related receptor (s-Themis) and fibrinogen-like ligand (v-Themis) genes, the latter of which is located in the first intron of s-Themis but transcribed in the opposite direction. These genes may encode male- and female-side self-recognition molecules. The SI system of C. intestinalis has a similar framework to that of flowering plants but utilizing different molecules.

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