Male and female sterilities have many useful applications in horticultural crops, including reducing the invasive potential of new ornamentals, elimination of pollen allergens and redirecting resources from seeds to vegetative growth. In this study, we tested a male- and female-sterility (MS; FS) gene construct in Nicotiana tabacum to evaluate its effectiveness and effect on phenotype. Three T1 Nicotiana tabacum lines expressing the MS (p108:barnase) and FS (sp41:barnase) genes (MS/FS lines) and a control Nicotiana tabacum line (WT GUS) were measured for plant height, leaf length and width, corolla length, number of nodes on the main stem and stem diameter. No significant differences were found in these growth measurements between MS/FS lines and WT GUS. No pollen was observed on any of the lines carrying the MS and FS genes, indicating that the male sterility was complete. Seed set was greatly reduced or completely eliminated in plants with the MS and FS genes, after heavy pollinations of mature flowers with WT GUS pollen. However, pollinations of immature flowers resulted in very low seed set. This may be due to the nature of the promoter controlling expression of the FS gene as it had the highest expression levels at anthesis. The combination of male- and female-sterility genes was effective in eliminating seed set in all the lines examined and has direct application for reducing invasiveness of ornamental plants.
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