Paternal leakage sustains the cytoplasmic polymorphism underlying gynodioecy but remains invasible by nuclear restorers

Am Nat. 2005 Nov;166(5):592-602. doi: 10.1086/491660. Epub 2005 Aug 30.


Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) in plants often results in gynodioecious populations, composed of hermaphrodites and male-sterile females. All models of gynodioecy assume maternal inheritance of the cytoplasmic alleles and postulate a variety of negatively frequency-dependent mechanisms to maintain the cytoplasmic polymorphisms observed in many natural populations. However, in some plant species, mitochondria are transmitted at least occasionally by pollen, a process called paternal leakage. We show that even a small amount of paternal leakage is sufficient to sustain a permanent, stable cytoplasmic polymorphism. Because only hermaphrodites provide pollen in gynodioecious species, the effects of paternal leakage are biased and occur more often from the non-CMS male-fertile haplotype to the CMS male-sterile haplotype. We also show that a nuclear restorer disrupts the polymorphic cytoplasmic equilibrium, leading to fixation of both the CMS allele and the restorer. Although a dominant nuclear restorer fixes, it fixes much more slowly than in the standard CMS models. Although a stable cytonuclear polymorphism is possible with "matching alleles" nuclear restoration, oscillations to low frequencies present a risk of loss by drift. Paternal leakage enhances the stability of joint cytonuclear polymorphism by reducing the chance that a CMS allele is lost by drift.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / genetics*
  • Cytoplasm / genetics*
  • Flowering Tops / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*