The ‚??Highlander‚?Ě genewas found to regulate self-incompatibility that has
the potential to allow plants to self-fertilize, creating opportunities
to breed stronger, more resilient crops for sustainable agriculture.
The investigation started with the observation of the field
poppy,/Papaver rhoeas/, which has the mechanism to avoid problems in
self-fertilization. Poppies can recognize their own pollen and trigger a
cell suicide program, providing a precise and clean way to eliminate
unwanted pollen grains. This ability to control whether or not a plant
can self-fertilize has the potential to help breeders develop more
The researchers then used the Thale cress (/Arabidopsis thaliana/), a
‚??self-compatible‚?Ě plant, as the basis for research to obtain information
about engineering self-incompatibility in crops. The plant underwent
genetic screening to identify a new gene that is critical for regulating
self-incompatibility. The researchers then developed an engineered
self-incompatible Arabidopsis plant line to identify the ‚??Highlander‚?Ě
gene, which when removed, abolished self-incompatibility and made a
self-incompatible plant completely self-fertile. The gene also encodes
the PGAP1 protein that is found in yeast and humans, and now in plants
as well. This is the first time that a function for it has been
identified in plants.
The ‚??Highlander‚?Ě gene was named after the immortal warrior in the 1986
film of the same name.
Self-incompatibility requires GPI anchor remodeling by the poppy PGAP1
ortholog HLD1: Current Biology (cell.com)