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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Sep 7;272(1574):1795-802.

Sex inheritance in gynodioecious species: a polygenic view.

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Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Aarhus, Ny Munkegade, Building 540, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.


Gynodioecy is defined as the coexistence of two different sexual morphs in a population: females and hermaphrodites. This breeding system is found among many different families of angiosperms and is usually under nucleo-cytoplasmic inheritance, with maternally inherited genes causing male sterility and nuclear factors restoring male fertility. Numerous theoretical models have investigated the conditions for the stable coexistence of females and hermaphrodites. To date, all models rest on the assumption that restoration of a given male sterile genotype is controlled by a single Mendelian factor. Here, we review data bearing on the genetic determinism of sex inheritance in three gynodiecious plant species. We suggest that restoration of male fertility is probably best viewed as a quantitative trait controlled by many loci. We develop a threshold model that accommodates an underlying polygenic trait, which is resolved at the phenotypic level in discrete sexual morphs. We use this model to reanalyse data in Thymus vulgaris, Silene vulgaris and Plantago coronopus. A simple Mendelian inheritance of sex determinism is unlikely in all three species. We discuss how our model can shed additional light on the genetics of restoration and point towards future efforts in the modelling of gynodioecy.

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