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PLoS Genet. 2012;8(7):e1002838. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002838. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

Recent loss of self-incompatibility by degradation of the male component in allotetraploid Arabidopsis kamchatica.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, Institute of Plant Biology, and Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


The evolutionary transition from outcrossing to self-fertilization (selfing) through the loss of self-incompatibility (SI) is one of the most prevalent events in flowering plants, and its genetic basis has been a major focus in evolutionary biology. In the Brassicaceae, the SI system consists of male and female specificity genes at the S-locus and of genes involved in the female downstream signaling pathway. During recent decades, much attention has been paid in particular to clarifying the genes responsible for the loss of SI. Here, we investigated the pattern of polymorphism and functionality of the female specificity gene, the S-locus receptor kinase (SRK), in allotetraploid Arabidopsis kamchatica. While its parental species, A. lyrata and A. halleri, are reported to be diploid and mainly self-incompatible, A. kamchatica is self-compatible. We identified five highly diverged SRK haplogroups, found their disomic inheritance and, for the first time in a wild allotetraploid species, surveyed the geographic distribution of SRK at the two homeologous S-loci across the species range. We found intact full-length SRK sequences in many accessions. Through interspecific crosses with the self-incompatible and diploid congener A. halleri, we found that the female components of the SI system, including SRK and the female downstream signaling pathway, are still functional in these accessions. Given the tight linkage and very rare recombination of the male and female components on the S-locus, this result suggests that the degradation of male components was responsible for the loss of SI in A. kamchatica. Recent extensive studies in multiple Brassicaceae species demonstrate that the loss of SI is often derived from mutations in the male component in wild populations, in contrast to cultivated populations. This is consistent with theoretical predictions that mutations disabling male specificity are expected to be more strongly selected than mutations disabling female specificity, or the female downstream signaling pathway.

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