RNaseI from Escherichia coli cannot substitute for S-RNase in rejection of Nicotiana plumbaginifolia pollen

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Unilateral incompatibility often occurs between self-incompatible (SI) species and their self-compatible (SC) relatives. For example, SI Nicotiana alata rejects pollen from SC N. plumbaginifolia, but the reciprocal pollination is compatible. This interspecific pollen rejection system closely resembles intraspecific S-allele-specific pollen rejection. However, the two systems differ in degree of specificity. In SI, rejection is S-allele-specific, meaning that only a single S-RNase causes rejection of pollen with a specific S genotype. Rejection of N. plumbaginifolia pollen is less specific, occurring in response to almost any S-RNase. Here, we have tested whether a non-S-RNase can cause rejection of N. plumbaginifolia pollen. The Escherichia coli rna gene encoding RNaseI was engineered for expression in transgenic (N. plumbaginifolia × SC N. alata) hybrids. Expression levels and pollination behavior of hybrids expressing E. coli RNaseI were compared to controls expressing SA2-RNase from N. alata. Immunoblot analysis and RNase activity assays showed that RNaseI and SA2-RNase were expressed at comparable levels. However, expression of SA2-RNase caused rejection of N. plumbaginifolia pollen, whereas expression of RNaseI did not. Thus, in this system, RNase activity alone is not sufficient for rejection of N. plumbaginifolia pollen. The results suggest that S-RNases may be specially adapted to function in pollen rejection.

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