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Plant Reproduction




Gametophytic cross-incompatibility systems in corn have been the subject of genetic studies for more than a century. They have tremendous economic potential as a genetic mechanism for controlling fertilization without controlling pollination. Three major genetically distinct and functionally equivalent cross-incompatibility systems exist in Zea mays: Ga1, Tcb1, and Ga2. All three confer reproductive isolation between maize or teosinte varieties with different haplotypes at any one locus. These loci confer genetically separable functions to the silk and pollen: a female function that allows the silk to block fertilization by non-self-type pollen and a male function that overcomes the block of the female function from the same locus. Identification of some of these genes has shed light on the reproductive isolation they confer. The identification of both male and female factors as pectin methylesterases reveals the importance of pectin methylesterase activity in controlling the decision between pollen acceptance versus rejection, possibly by regulating the degree of methylesterification of the pollen tube cell wall. The appropriate level and spatial distribution of pectin methylesterification is critical for pollen tube growth and is affected by both pectin methylesterases and pectin methylesterase inhibitors. We present a molecular model that explains how cross-incompatibility systems may function that can be tested in Zea and uncharacterized cross-incompatibility systems. Molecular characterization of these loci in conjunction with further refinement of the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms will allow researchers to bring new and powerful tools to bear on understanding reproductive isolation in Zea mays and related species.


This article is published as Lu, Yongxian, Adrienne N. Moran Lauter, Srilakshmi Makkena, M. Paul Scott, and Matthew MS Evans. "Insights into the molecular control of cross-incompatibility in Zea mays." Plant Reproduction (2020). doi: 10.1007/s00497-020-00394-w.


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