Unilateral cross-incompatibility (UCI) is a unidirectional inter/intra-population reproductive barrier when both parents are self-compatible. Maize Gametophyte factor1 (Ga1) is an intraspecific UCI system and has been utilized in breeding. However, the mechanism underlying maize UCI specificity has remained mysterious for decades. Here, we report the cloning of ZmGa1P, a pollen-expressed PECTIN METHYLESTERASE (PME) gene at the Ga1 locus that can confer the male function in the maize UCI system. Homozygous transgenic plants expressing ZmGa1P in a ga1 background can fertilize Ga1-S plants and can be fertilized by pollen of ga1 plants. ZmGa1P protein is predominantly localized to the apex of growing pollen tubes and may interact with another pollen-specific PME protein, ZmPME10-1, to maintain the state of pectin methylesterification required for pollen tube growth in Ga1-S silks. Our study discloses a PME-mediated UCI mechanism and provides a tool to manipulate hybrid breeding.
Journal: Nature communications