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Extraordinary phenotypes of hybrids are influenced by epigenetics and small silencing RNAs

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Hybrid organisms may exhibit phenotypes that transgress the range of the parents in the F1 or subsequent generations. The hybrids may fail to develop, be sterile, or, conversely they may be more vigorous than either of the parents. There has been some recent progress understanding hybrid vigour and hybrid necrosis in the F1 plants in terms of epistasis or overdominance but the transgressive phenotypes in later generations are not well understood. We have investigated the possibility that transgressive phenotypes are associated with small(s)RNAs including micro (mi) and small interfering (si) RNAs. Towards this, we have analysed sRNAs from tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) M82 , a wild tomato relative with useful traits (S. pennellii), M82 X S . pennellii F1 and F2 hybrids, and a set of interspecific Introgressed Lines (IL) with small regions of S. pennellii DNA in the M82 genome. In these hybrids, most miRNAs and siRNA loci were expressed within the parental range. However, at certain exceptional loci, the sRNAs were more abundant than in either parent or the F1 hybrid correlating with suppression and epigenetic modification of target gene expression. The targets of such transgressive miRNA and siRNA loci include protein coding genes affecting growth and responses to abiotic stimuli. Our results illustrate how activation of sRNA production can contribute to the extraordinary transgressive phenotypes in hybrid plants.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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