Mitochondrial ORF79 levels determine pollen abortion in cytoplasmic male sterile rice
Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) is an important agricultural trait characterized by lack of functional pollen, and caused by ectopic and defective mitochondrial gene expression. The pollen function in CMS plants is restored by the presence of nuclear‐encoded restorer of fertility (Rf) genes. Previously, we cloned Rf2, which restores the fertility of Lead Rice (LD)‐type CMS rice. However, neither the function of Rf2 nor the identity of the mitochondrial gene causing CMS has been determined in LD–CMS rice. Here, we show that the mitochondrial gene orf79 acts as a CMS‐associated gene in LD–CMS rice, similar to its role in BT–CMS rice originating from Chinsurah Boro II, and Rf2 weakly restores fertility in BT–CMS rice. We also show that RF2 promotes degradation of atp6–orf79 RNA in a different manner from that of RF1, which is the Rf gene product in BT–CMS rice. The amount of ORF79 protein in LD–CMS rice was one‐twentieth of the amount in BT–CMS rice. The difference in ORF79 protein levels probably accounts for the mild and severe pollen defects in LD–CMS and BT–CMS rice, respectively. In the presence of Rf2, accumulation of ORF79 was reduced to almost zero and 25% in LD–CMS and BT–CMS rice, respectively, which probably accounts for the complete and weak fertility restoration abilities of Rf2 in LD–CMS and BT–CMS rice, respectively. These observations indicate that the amount of ORF79 influences the pollen fertility in two strains of rice in which CMS is induced by orf79.
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