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EMBO J. 2012 Jan 18;31(2):257-66. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2011.458. Epub 2011 Dec 16.

Extraordinary transgressive phenotypes of hybrid tomato are influenced by epigenetics and small silencing RNAs.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Hybrid organisms may fail to develop, be sterile or they may be more vigorous than either of the parents. Examples of hybrid vigour or hybrid necrosis in the F1 are often not inherited stably in subsequent generations if they are associated with overdominance. There can also be transgressive phenotypes that are inherited stably in these later generations, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Here we have investigated the possibility that stable transgressive phenotypes in the progeny of crosses between cultivated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum cv. M82) and a wild relative (Solanum pennellii, accession LA716) are associated with micro or small interfering(si) RNAs. We identified loci from which these small(s)RNAs were more abundant in hybrids than in either parent and we show that accumulation of such transgressive sRNAs correlated with suppression of the corresponding target genes. In one instance this effect was associated with hypermethylation of the corresponding genomic DNA. Our results illustrate a potential role of transgressive sRNAs in plant breeding and in natural evolution with wild plants.

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