University of Illinois research has resulted in the development of a novel and widely applicable molecular tool that can serve as a road map for making plant breeding easier to understand.
Researchers developed a unified nomenclature for male fertility restorer proteins in higher plants that can make rapid advancements in plant breeding.
"Understanding the mechanism by which RF genes suppress the male sterile phenotype and restore fertility to plants is critical for continued improvements in hybrid technology," says Manfredo J. Seufferheld, U of I assistant professor of crop sciences.
To reach this goal, Seufferheld teamed up with post-doctoral researchers Simeon O. Kotchoni and Emma W. Gachomo of Purdue University, and Jose C. Jimenez-Lopez of the Estacion Experimental del Zaidin, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas in Granada, Spain, to develop a simplified genetic-based nomenclature that automatically catalogues the entire RF gene products into families and subfamilies.
"Up to now, there has been no unified nomenclature for naming the RF proteins," Seufferheld adds. "As the systematic sequencing of new plant species has increased in recent years, naming has been simply arbitrary. We have had 'chaos' in the databases. The RF information in the databases could not be adequately handled in the context of comparative functional genomics."
This new tool will help plant breeders and scientists make decisions more quickly. Breeders can now easily match sterility in plants to male restorer mechanisms. Ultimately, growers may benefit sooner from new developments in plant breeding since breeders will be able to generate new hybrids at a faster pace, Jimenez-Lopez adds.
In 1972, Texas-Cytoplasm Male Sterility corn was heavily used in hybrid seed production because it eliminated the costly practice of detasseling by hand. Nearly 85% of the U.S. corn crop was produced using T-CMS, which was highly susceptible to Helminthosporium maydis, the fungus that causes southern corn leaf blight.
Since then, understanding the function of RF genes in higher plants has been a priority of many researchers.