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Genetics. 2001 Apr;157(4):1805-17.

On the origin of self-incompatibility haplotypes: transition through self-compatible intermediates.

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Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708-0338, USA.


Self-incompatibility (SI) in flowering plants entails the inhibition of fertilization by pollen that express specificities in common with the pistil. In species of the Solanaceae, Rosaceae, and Scrophulariaceae, the inhibiting factor is an extracellular ribonuclease (S-RNase) secreted by stylar tissue. A distinct but as yet unknown gene (provisionally called pollen-S) appears to determine the specific S-RNase from which a pollen tube accepts inhibition. The S-RNase gene and pollen-S segregate with the classically defined S-locus. The origin of a new specificity appears to require, at minimum, mutations in both genes. We explore the conditions under which new specificities may arise from an intermediate state of loss of self-recognition. Our evolutionary analysis of mutations that affect either pistil or pollen specificity indicates that natural selection favors mutations in pollen-S that reduce the set of pistils from which the pollen accepts inhibition and disfavors mutations in the S-RNase gene that cause the nonreciprocal acceptance of pollen specificities. We describe the range of parameters (rate of receipt of self-pollen and relative viability of inbred offspring) that permits the generation of a succession of new specificities. This evolutionary pathway begins with the partial breakdown of SI upon the appearance of a mutation in pollen-S that frees pollen from inhibition by any S-RNase presently in the population and ends with the restoration of SI by a mutation in the S-RNase gene that enables pistils to reject the new pollen type.

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