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J Exp Bot. 2012 May;63(8):2921-32. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err459. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

An evolutionarily conserved mitochondrial orf108 is associated with cytoplasmic male sterility in different alloplasmic lines of Brassica juncea and induces male sterility in transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana.

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National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110012, India.


Nuclear-mitochondrial gene interactions governing cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) in angiosperms have been found to be unique to each system. Fertility restoration of three diverse alloplasmic CMS lines of Brassica juncea by a line carrying the fertility-restorer gene introgressed from Moricandia arvensis prompted this investigation to examine the molecular basis of CMS in these lines. Since previous studies had found altered atpA transcription associated with CMS in these lines, the atpA genes and transcripts of CMS, fertility-restored, and euplasmic lines were cloned and compared. atpA coding and downstream sequences were conserved among CMS and euplasmic lines but major differences were found in the 5' flanking sequences of atpA. A unique open reading frame (ORF), orf108, co-transcribed with atpA, was found in male sterile flowers of CMS lines carrying mitochondrial genomes of Diplotaxis berthautii, D. catholica, or D. erucoides. In presence of the restorer gene, the bicistronic orf108-atpA transcript was cleaved within orf108 to yield a monocistronic atpA transcript. Transgenic expression of orf108 with anther-specific Atprx18 promoter in Arabidopsis thaliana gave 50% pollen sterility, indicating that Orf108 is lethal at the gametophytic stage. Further, lack of transmission of orf108 to the progeny showed for the first time that mitochondrial ORFs could also cause female sterility. orf108 was found to be widely distributed among wild relatives of Brassica, indicating its ancient origin. This is the first report that shows that CMS lines of different origin and morphology could share common molecular basis. The gametic lethality of Orf108 offers a novel opportunity for transgene containment.

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