Plant cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) results from incompatibilities between the organellar and nuclear genomes and prevents self pollination, enabling hybrid crop breeding to increase yields1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The Wild Abortive CMS (CMS-WA) has been exploited in the majority of 'three-line' hybrid rice production since the 1970s, but the molecular basis of this trait remains unknown. Here we report that a new mitochondrial gene, WA352, which originated recently in wild rice, confers CMS-WA because the protein it encodes interacts with the nuclear-encoded mitochondrial protein COX11. In CMS-WA lines, WA352 accumulates preferentially in the anther tapetum, thereby inhibiting COX11 function in peroxide metabolism and triggering premature tapetal programmed cell death and consequent pollen abortion. WA352-induced sterility can be suppressed by two restorer-of-fertility (Rf) genes, suggesting the existence of different mechanisms to counteract deleterious cytoplasmic factors. Thus, CMS-related cytoplasmic-nuclear incompatibility is driven by a detrimental interaction between a newly evolved mitochondrial gene and a conserved, essential nuclear gene.
Via Jennifer Mach