A Y-chromosome–encoded small RNA acts as a sex determinant in persimmons

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Science  31 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6209, pp. 646-650
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257225

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Y male plants affect female development

Although most plants have both male and female organs within a single flower, some produce separate male and female plants. In some cases, such as persimmons, males are determined by a Y chromosome. Akagi et al. examined the gene transcript differences between male and female persimmons. A gene on the Y chromosome regulated a non–sex chromosome–linked small RNA that suppresses female organ development. This small RNA was localized to male flowers and could affect female development in other plant species. The evolutionary history of these genes suggests that they are tied to the origin of the separation of sexes in the persimmon family.

Science, this issue p. 646


In plants, multiple lineages have evolved sex chromosomes independently, providing a powerful comparative framework, but few specific determinants controlling the expression of a specific sex have been identified. We investigated sex determinants in the Caucasian persimmon, Diospyros lotus, a dioecious plant with heterogametic males (XY). Male-specific short nucleotide sequences were used to define a male-determining region. A combination of transcriptomics and evolutionary approaches detected a Y-specific sex-determinant candidate, OGI, that displays male-specific conservation among Diospyros species. OGI encodes a small RNA targeting the autosomal MeGI gene, a homeodomain transcription factor regulating anther fertility in a dosage-dependent fashion. This identification of a feminizing gene suppressed by a Y-chromosome–encoded small RNA contributes to our understanding of the evolution of sex chromosome systems in higher plants.

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