Crop Biotech Update

Poppy Genes Transferred to Different Plants to Prevent Self-Pollination

November 11, 2015

Scientists from the University of Birmingham have created a plant that rejects its own pollen, and the pollen of its close relatives. Self-pollination is an unwanted process in plants because it results in inbreeding and less healthy offspring. The research team took a self-fertile Arabidopsis thaliana and made it self-incompatible by the transfer of just two genes from poppies that enable the recipient plant to recognize and reject its own pollen whilst permitting cross-pollination. 

A central role is played by two self-incompatibility (SI) proteins: a "receptor", PrpS, made by the pollen and a signal protein called PrsS that is produced by the stigma. The research team has previously transferred the PrpS gene from field poppy to self-fertile A. thaliana. They went one step further in their recent study by putting the female PrsS gene from the poppy into A. thaliana plants and showing that this gene is expressed in A. thaliana pistils and functions to reject matching "self" pollen. They demonstrated that A. thaliana plants co-expressing both the pollen and stigma SI genes completely reject self-pollen. This shows for the first time that just these two poppy SI genes are sufficient to establish a robust self-incompatibility in a highly divergent self-compatible species which is over 100 million years away in evolutionary distance.

For more information, read the news release at the University of Birmingham website.