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The Maternally Expressed WRKY Transcription Factor TTG2 Controls Lethality in Interploidy Crosses of Arabidopsis

posted on 09.12.2008 by Brian P Dilkes, Melissa Spielman, Renate Weizbauer, Brian Watson, Diana Burkart-Waco, Rod J Scott, Luca Comai

The molecular mechanisms underlying lethality of F1 hybrids between diverged parents are one target of speciation research. Crosses between diploid and tetraploid individuals of the same genotype can result in F1 lethality, and this dosage-sensitive incompatibility plays a role in polyploid speciation. We have identified variation in F1 lethality in interploidy crosses of Arabidopsis thaliana and determined the genetic architecture of the maternally expressed variation via QTL mapping. A single large-effect QTL, DR. STRANGELOVE 1 (DSL1), was identified as well as two QTL with epistatic relationships to DSL1. DSL1 affects the rate of postzygotic lethality via expression in the maternal sporophyte. Fine mapping placed DSL1 in an interval encoding the maternal effect transcription factor TTG2. Maternal parents carrying loss-of-function mutations in TTG2 suppressed the F1 lethality caused by paternal excess interploidy crosses. The frequency of cellularization in the endosperm was similarly affected by both natural variation and ttg2 loss-of-function mutants. The simple genetic basis of the natural variation and effects of single-gene mutations suggests that F1 lethality in polyploids could evolve rapidly. Furthermore, the role of the sporophytically active TTG2 gene in interploidy crosses indicates that the developmental programming of the mother regulates the viability of interploidy hybrid offspring.