The Botanical Review

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 195–219 | Cite as

Late-acting self-incompatibility in angiosperms

  • Steven R. Seavey
  • Kamaljit S. Bawa


In most self-incompatible (SI) plants, pollen tube growth in self-pollinated flowers is inhibited on the stigma or in the style. SI systems that operate in the ovary have been assumed to be extremely rare. Evidence from many plant species is presented to show that the SI barriers in the ovary, described here as late-acting SI systems, are quite common. The late-acting SI systems are divided into four categories: (1) ovarian inhibition of incompatible pollen tubes before the ovule is reached; (2) prefertilization inhibition in the ovule; (3) post-zygotic rejection of the embryo, and (4) ovular inhibition for which the cytological details have not been established.

Whether or not post-zygotic incompatibility systems can be distinguished from inbreeding depression depends upon the assumptions underlying the genetic models of self-incompatibility. However, four approaches are outlined that could distinguish between active uniform rejections that are presumably evolved responses to inbreeding depression and the passive, variable failures that are commonly understood to be expressions of typical inbreeding depression.

Possible advantages of late-acting SI include an extended period of time over which pollen genotypes may be evaluated by the maternal parent and greater flexibility in the choice of male parents.

Due to a paucity of data regarding the genetics and physiology of lateacting SI systems, little can be said at this time about the possible diversity of such systems of their evolutionary relationships with classical gametophytic and sporophytic SI.

An hypothesis for the operation of post-zygotic SI is described whereby maternal resources to developing embryos are terminated if the embryo (and/or endosperm) fall below a threshold level of heterosis. This hypothesis is a modification of one first proposed by Westoby and Rice in 1982 to explain variable maternal resource allocation to developing embryos.


Pour la majorité des plantes autostériles, la croissance du tube pollinique, lorsque l’autopollinisation a lieu, est inhibée sur le stigmate ou dans le style. Il avait été supposé jusqu’ici que les mécanismes l’autostérilisation opérant dans l’ovaire étaient extrêmement rares. Des exemples provenant de plusieurs espèces végétales sont présentés ici pour montrer que les phénomènes d’autostérilisation au niveau de l’ovaire (désignés dans ce qui suit par l’expression “systèmes d’autostérilisation à action tardive”) sont en fait très communs. Les systèmes d’autostérilisation à action tardive son divisés en quatre catégories: (1) Inhibition ovarienne des tubes polliniques incompatibles avant que l’ovule ne soit atteint; (2) Inhibition dans l’ovule avant la fertilisation; (3) Rejet de l’embryon postzygotique; (4) Inhibition ovulaire (les détails cytologiques n’en ont pas encore été entièrement décrits).

Suivant les hypothèses sur lesquelles sont basés les différents modèles génétiques décrivant l’autostérilité, il est ou n’est pas possible de faire la distinction entre les systèmes d’incompatibilité post-zygotiques et la dégénérescence consanguine. Quatre différentes approches de la question sont proposées ici pour tenter de distinguer les rejets uniformes actifsqui sont présumés être des conséquences évolutionnaires de la dégénérescence consanguine—des défaillances variables passives, habituellement considérées comme l’expression caractéristique de la dégénérescence consanguine.

Deux avantages possibles des systèmes d’autostérilisation à action tardive pourraient être l’extension de la période durant laquelle les génotypes du pollen peuvent être évalués par le parent femelle, et une plus grande flexibilité dans le choix des parents mâles.

Vu la rareté des données génétiques et physiologiques en ce qui concerne les systèmes d’autostérilisation à action tardive, il est difficile d’estimer le degré de diversité de ces systèmes, ou leur corrélation évolutionnaire avec les systèmes classiques gamétophytiques et sporophytiques d’autostérilisation.

Une hypothèse décrivant le fonctionnement de l’autostérilisation postzygotique est exposée: les ressources maternelles cessent d’être fournies à l’embryon si le niveau d’hétérose de ce dernier (et/ou de l’endosperme) tombe en-dessous d’un seuil. Cette hypothèse est une modification de celle qui fut proposée en premier par Westoby et Rice en 1982 pour expliquer la variation dans l’attribution des ressources maternelles à l’embryon.


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven R. Seavey
    • 1
  • Kamaljit S. Bawa
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyLewis & Clark CollegePortland
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of MassachusettsBoston

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