Genomic Structural Variation-Mediated Allelic Suppression Causes Hybrid Male Sterility in Rice

Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 3;8(1):1310. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01400-y.


Hybrids between divergent populations commonly show hybrid sterility; this reproductive barrier hinders hybrid breeding of the japonica and indica rice (Oryza sativa L.) subspecies. Here we show that structural changes and copy number variation at the Sc locus confer japonica-indica hybrid male sterility. The japonica allele, Sc-j, contains a pollen-essential gene encoding a DUF1618-domain protein; the indica allele, Sc-i, contains two or three tandem-duplicated ~ 28-kb segments, each carrying an Sc-j-homolog with a distinct promoter. In Sc-j/Sc-i hybrids, the high-expression of Sc-i in sporophytic cells causes suppression of Sc-j expression in pollen and selective abortion of Sc-j-pollen, leading to transmission ratio distortion. Knocking out one or two of the three Sc-i copies by CRISPR/Cas9 rescues Sc-j expression and male fertility. Our results reveal the gene dosage-dependent allelic suppression as a mechanism of hybrid incompatibility, and provide an effective approach to overcome the reproductive barrier for hybrid breeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • DNA, Plant / genetics
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Genes, Plant
  • Genomic Structural Variation
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Models, Genetic
  • Oryza / classification
  • Oryza / genetics*
  • Oryza / physiology
  • Plant Breeding
  • Plant Infertility / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Pollen / genetics
  • Pollen / growth & development
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Plant