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J Exp Bot. 2012 Feb;63(3):1285-95. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err355. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

A male sterility-associated cytotoxic protein ORF288 in Brassica juncea causes aborted pollen development.

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National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, 430070, China.


Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) is a widespread phenomenon in higher plants, and several studies have established that this maternally inherited defect is often associated with a mitochondrial mutant. Approximately 10 chimeric genes have been identified as being associated with corresponding CMS systems in the family Brassicaceae, but there is little direct evidence that these genes cause male sterility. In this study, a novel chimeric gene (named orf288) was found to be located downstream of the atp6 gene and co-transcribed with this gene in the hau CMS sterile line. Western blotting analysis showed that this predicted open reading frame (ORF) was translated in the mitochondria of male-sterile plants. Furthermore, the growth of Escherichia coli was significantly repressed in the presence of ORF288, which indicated that this protein is toxic to the E. coli host cells. To confirm further the function of orf288 in male sterility, the gene was fused to a mitochondrial-targeting pre-sequence under the control of the Arabidopsis APETALA3 promoter and introduced into Arabidopsis thaliana. Almost 80% of transgenic plants with orf288 failed to develop anthers. It was also found that the independent expression of orf288 caused male sterility in transgenic plants, even without the transit pre-sequence. Furthermore, transient expression of orf288 and green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a fused protein in A. thaliana protoplasts showed that ORF288 was able to anchor to mitochondria even without the external mitochondrial-targeting peptide. These observations provide important evidence that orf288 is responsible for the male sterility of hau CMS in Brassica juncea.

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