Suppression and restoration of male fertility using a transcription factor Academic Article uri icon


  • The Arabidopsis AtMYB103 gene codes for an R2R3 MYB domain protein whose expression is restricted to the tapetum of developing anthers and to trichomes. Down-regulation of expression using anti-sense leads to abnormal tapetum and pollen development, although seed setting still occurs (Higginson, T., Li, S.F. and Parish, R.W. (2003) AtMYB103 regulates tapetum and trichome development in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant J. 35, 177-192). In this study, we show that blocking the function of the AtMYB103 gene, employing either an insertion mutant or an AtMYB103EAR chimeric repressor construct under the control of the AtMYB103 promoter, results in complete male sterility and failure to set seed. These plants exhibit similar abnormalities in tapetum and pollen development, with the tapetum becoming highly vacuolated at early stages and degenerating prematurely. No exine is deposited on to the pollen wall. The degeneration of pollen grains commences prior to pollen mitosis, the pollen collapsing and largely lacking cytoplasmic content. A restorer containing the AtMYB103 gene under the control of a stronger anther-specific promoter was introduced into pollen donor plants and crossed into the male sterile plants transgenic for the repressor. The male fertility of F1 plants was restored. The chimeric repressor and the restorer constitute a reversible male sterility system which could be adapted for hybrid seed production. This is the first reversible male sterility system targeting a transcription factor essential for pollen development. Strategies for generating inducible male sterility and maintainable male sterility for the production of hybrid crops are discussed.

publication date

  • March 2007