The Papaver rhoeas S determinants confer self-incompatibility to Arabidopsis thaliana in planta

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Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261, pp. 684-687
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2983

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Distant relatives can share gene function

The plants Arabidopsis thaliana and Papaver rhoeas (poppy) shared a common ancestor approximately 140 million years ago. Because of this evolutionary distance, although many of their genes share function, the mechanisms that allow these genes to function are expected to have diverged. However, Z. Lin et al. found that a pair of genes that prevent self-fertilization in poppy can confer the same trait when expressed in Arabidopsis. This incompatibility was much more like that of poppy than that of incompatible close relatives of Arabidopsis. Thus, similar long-distance transfer of incompatibility, a trait of interest for plant breeding, may be useful between other distantly related species.

Science, this issue p. 684


Self-incompatibility (SI) is a major genetically controlled system used to prevent inbreeding in higher plants. S determinants regulate allele-specific rejection of “self” pollen by the pistil. SI is an important model system for cell-to-cell recognition and signaling and could be potentially useful for first-generation (F1) hybrid breeding. To date, the transfer of S determinants has used the complementation of orthologs to “restore” SI in close relatives. We expressed the Papaver rhoeas S determinants PrsS and PrpS in Arabidopsis thaliana. This enabled pistils to reject pollen expressing cognate PrpS. Moreover, plants coexpressing cognate PrpS and PrsS exhibit robust SI. This demonstrates that PrsS and PrpS are sufficient for a functional synthetic S locus in vivo. This transfer of novel S determinants into a highly divergent species (>140 million years apart) with no orthologs suggests their potential utility in crop production.

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