- Yang H. (2018) Endogenous tassel-specific small RNAs-mediated RNA interference enables a novel glyphosate-inducible male sterility system for commercial production of hybrid seed in Zea mays L.. PLOS ONE 13(8), e0202921.
Hybrid crops produce higher yields than their inbred parents due to heterosis. For high purity of hybrid seeds, it is critical to eliminate self-pollination. Manual or mechanical removal of male parts (such as detasseling in maize) is labor-intensive, fuel and time-consuming, and can cause physical damage to female plants, resulting in significant seed yield reductions. Many male-sterility systems either require a maintainer for male-sterile line propagation or are often affected by environmental factors. Roundup® Hybridization System (RHS) utilizes glyphosate to induce male sterility, which effectively eliminates the need for maintainer lines and removal of male parts for commercial hybrid seed production. The first-generation RHS (RHS1) is based on low expression of a glyphosate-insensitive 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (CP4 EPSPS) in pollen. This report presents the second-generation RHS (RHS2) technology built on RNA interference (RNAi) combined with CP4 EPSPS. It utilizes maize endogenous male tissue-specific small interfering RNAs (mts-siRNAs) to trigger cleavage of the CP4 EPSPS mRNA specifically in tassels, resulting in glyphosate-sensitive male cells due to lack of the CP4 EPSPS protein. Male sterility is then induced by glyphosate application at the stages critical for pollen development, and the male-sterile plants are used as the female parent to produce hybrid seed. The endogenous mts-siRNAs are conserved across maize germplasms, and the inducible male sterility was replicated in representative germplasms through introgression of a CP4 EPSPS transgene containing the mts-siRNA target sequence. This technology combines the relative simplicity and convenience of a systemic herbicide spray methodology with targeted protein expression to create an inducible male sterility system for industrial production of row crop hybrid seeds in an environmentally-independent manner.