Biotech Updates

Gene That Controls Self-Pollination in Plants Identified

April 6, 2022

The “Highlander” gene was found to regulate self-incompatibility that has the potential to allow plants to self-fertilize, creating opportunities to breed stronger, more resilient crops for sustainable agriculture.

The investigation started with the observation of the field poppy, Papaver rhoeas, which has the mechanism to avoid problems in self-fertilization. Poppies can recognize their own pollen and trigger a cell suicide program, providing a precise and clean way to eliminate unwanted pollen grains. This ability to control whether or not a plant can self-fertilize has the potential to help breeders develop more resilient crops.

The researchers then used the Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a “self-compatible” plant, as the basis for research to obtain information about engineering self-incompatibility in crops. The plant underwent genetic screening to identify a new gene that is critical for regulating self-incompatibility. The researchers then developed an engineered self-incompatible Arabidopsis plant line to identify the “Highlander” gene, which when removed, abolished self-incompatibility and made a self-incompatible plant completely self-fertile. The gene also encodes the PGAP1 protein that is found in yeast and humans, and now in plants as well. This is the first time that a function for it has been identified in plants.

The “Highlander” gene was named after the immortal warrior in the 1986 film of the same name. Read more about it in the University of Birmingham's news release and in the article published by Current Biology.

You might also like: