, Volume 99, Issue 6, pp 1047-1052

Microsatellite (GATA)n reveals sex-specific differences in Papaya

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Papaya, an economically important fruit plant, is polygamous in nature. The sex of dioecious papaya plants can be deduced only after they attain reproductive maturity (6–8 months). Normally, 50% of the population in a field is composed of unfruitful male plants and almost 45% of these have to be uprooted at the flowering stage. This unnecessary cultivation of unwanted males leads to wastage of resources, which can be avoided if the sex of the plant is determined at juvenile stage. Morphological and cytological studies conducted so far have failed to differentiate between the various sex forms of papaya. Its dioecious nature, occasional sex-reversal of male flowers and the absence of a heteromorphic pair of sex chromosomes make papaya an interesting system to study sex determination at the molecular level. In the present study, highly informative microsatellite and minisatellite probes were employed to identify sex-specific differences in papaya. Among these, only the microsatellite probe (GATA)4 demonstrated sex-specific differences in all the cultivars analysed. The diagnostic potential of this microsatellite marker was exploited to sex papaya plants at the seedling stage. This study also indicates that the genetic material of the X and Y chromosomes of papaya is diverging in a sex-specific manner and hence they are in the process of differentiation.

Received: 26 February 1999 / Accepted: 25 March 1999