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Self-fertile apple resulting from S-RNase gene silencing

Broothaerts, W., Keulemans, J., Van Nerum, I.
Plant cell reports 2004 v.22 no.7 pp. 497-501
apples, cross pollination, data collection, flowers, fruit crops, fruit set, fruit trees, gene silencing, genes, genotype, phenotype, pistil, pollen tubes, proteins, ribonucleases, seeds, selfing, transgenic plants
Self-incompatibility (SI) restricts fertilisation and fruit setting in many tree fruit crops. In apple, we have produced transgenic trees harbouring extra copies of the endogenous S-gene controlling SI. Two independent transgenic genotypes were characterised in detail. Controlled self- and cross-pollination of the flowers of trees from both genotypes over a 3-year-period showed that the transgenic lines produced normal levels of fruit and seeds after selfing. In contrast, the controls produced much less fruit following self- compared to cross-pollination. Fruit set data correlated with the results of microscopic evaluation of pollen tube growth through the pistil, which revealed inhibition after selfing in the controls but not in the transgenic lines. The self-fertile phenotype was associated with the complete absence of pistil S-RNase proteins, which are the products of the targeted S-gene. These results confirm that self-fertility was due to inhibition of expression of the S-RNase gene in the pistil, resulting in un-arrested self-pollen tube growth, and fertilisation.