A natural gene drive system confers reproductive isolation in rice

C. Wang, J. Wang, J. Lu, Y. Xiong, Z. Zhao, X. Yu, X. Zheng, J. Li, Q. Lin, Y. Ren, Y. Hu, X. He, C. Li, Y. Zeng, R. Miao, M. Guo, B. Zhang, Y. Zhu, Y. Zhang, W. Tang, Y. Wang, B. Hao, Q. Wang, S. Cheng, X. He, B. Yao, J. Gao, X. Zhu, H. Yu, Y. Wang, Y. S,  Cell,  2023.

Hybrid sterility restricts the utilization of superior heterosis of indica-japonica inter-subspecific hybrids. In this study, we report the identification of RHS12, a major locus controlling male gamete sterility in indica-japonica hybrid rice. We show that RHS12 consists of two genes (iORF3/DUYAO and iORF4/JIEYAO) that confer preferential transmission of the RHS12-i type male gamete into the progeny, thereby forming a natural gene drive. DUYAO encodes a mitochondrion-targeted protein that interacts with OsCOX11 to trigger cytotoxicity and cell death, whereas JIEYAO encodes a protein that reroutes DUYAO to the autophagosome for degradation via direct physical interaction, thereby detoxifying DUYAO. Evolutionary trajectory analysis reveals that this system likely formed de novo in the AA genome Oryza clade and contributed to reproductive isolation (RI) between different lineages of rice. Our combined results provide mechanistic insights into the genetic basis of RI as well as insights for strategic designs of hybrid rice breeding.

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