Cell-specific regulation of a Brassica napus CMS-associated gene by a nuclear restorer with related effects on a floral homeotic gene promoter


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Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) is a maternally inherited defect in pollen production specified by novel mitochondrial genes. It can be suppressed by nuclear restorer (Rf) genes which normally downregulate expression of a CMS-associated novel mitochondrial gene. Two forms of Brassica napus CMS, nap and pol, are associated with related chimeric genes, orf222 and orf224, respectively. We show that in pol and nap CMS, anther locule development is asynchronous and asymmetric, that one or more locules within each anther may fail to develop entirely and that CMS anthers display polarity in locule development. We show, by in situ hybridization, that orf222 transcripts accumulate in sterile anthers prior to development of morphological differences between CMS and restored stamens, and remain preferentially localized to microsporangia. In fertility-restored anthers, however, orf222 transcript levels remain low throughout development. Some sporogenous and meiotic cells differentiate within CMS anthers and form functional pollen despite retaining high orf222 transcript levels, suggesting that the effect of orf222 expression in blocking pollen development is limited to an early and specific stage. Transcripts of other mitochondrial genes, exemplified by atp6 and cob, and of the nuclear-encoded ATP synthase gamma subunit, accumulate preferentially in the microsporangia of both sterile and fertile anthers. Thus nuclear fertility restoration reduces orf222 transcript levels in a gene and tissue-specific manner. We observe differences between CMS and fertile plants in the timing and patterning of APETALA3 promoter activity that suggest a possible basis for the developmental abnormalities of CMS flowers.