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Article|31 Jan 2022|OPEN
Exploiting sterility and fertility variation in cytoplasmic male sterile vegetable crops
Fengyuan Xu1 , Xiaodong Yang4,6 , Na Zhao5 , Zhongyuan Hu1 , Sally A. Mackenzie4 , and Mingfang Zhang1,2,3 , , Jinghua Yang,1,2,3,7 ,
1Laboratory of Germplasm Innovation and Molecular Breeding, Institute of Vegetable Science, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 310058, China
2Hainan Institute, Zhejiang University, Yazhou Bay Science and Technology City, Sanya, 572025, China
3Key Laboratory of Horticultural Plant Growth and Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 310058, China
4Departments of Biology and Plant Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA
5College of Grassland Science, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, 210095, China
6School of Horticulture and Plant Protection, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, Jiangsu, China
7Lead contact:
*Corresponding author. E-mail:,,

Horticulture Research 9,
Article number: uhab039 (2022)
Views: 189

Received: 21 Jul 2021
Accepted: 15 Oct 2021
Published online: 31 Jan 2022


Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) has long been used to economically produce hybrids that harness growth vigor through heterosis. Yet, how CMS systems operate within commercially viable seed production strategies in various economically important vegetable crops, and their underlying molecular mechanisms, are often overlooked details that could expand the utility of CMS as a cost-effective and stable system. We provide here an update on the nature of cytoplasmic–nuclear interplay for pollen sterility and fertility transitions in vegetable crops, based on the discovery of components of nuclear fertility restoration and reversion determinants. Within plant CMS systems, pollen fertility can be rescued by the introduction of nuclear fertility restorer genes (Rfs), which operate by varied mechanisms to countermand the sterility phenotype. By understanding these systems, it is now becoming feasible to achieve fertility restoration with Rfs designed for programmable CMS-associated open reading frames (ORFs). Likewise, new opportunities exist for targeted disruption of CMS-associated ORFs by mito-TALENs in crops where natural Rfs have not been readily identified, providing an alternative approach to recovering fertility of cytoplasmic male sterile lines in crops. Recent findings show that facultative gynodioecy, as a reproductive strategy, can coordinate the sterility and fertility transition in response to environmental cues and/or metabolic signals that reflect ecological conditions of reproductive isolation. This information is important to devising future systems that are more inherently stable.