Date of this Version
Stability of the mitochondrial genome is controlled by nuclear loci. In plants, nuclear genes suppress mitochondrial DNA rearrangements during development. One nuclear gene involved in this process is Msh1. Msh1 appears to be involved in the suppression of illegitimate recombination in plant mitochondria. To test the hypothesis that Msh1 disruption leads to the type of mitochondrial DNA rearrangements associated with naturally occurring cytoplasmic male sterility in plants, a transgenic approach for RNAi was used to modulate expression of Msh1 in tobacco and tomato. In both species, these experiments resulted in reproducible mitochondrial DNA rearrangements and a condition of male (pollen) sterility. The male sterility was, in each case, heritable, associated with normal female fertility, and apparently maternal in its inheritance. Segregation of the transgene did not reverse the male sterile phenotype, producing stable, nontransgenic male sterility. The reproducible transgenic induction of mitochondrial rearrangements in plants is unprecedented, providing a means to develop novel cytoplasmic male sterile lines for release as non-GMO or transgenic materials.