Mechanisms of self-incompatibility in flowering plants


Self-incompatibility is a widespread mechanism in flowering plants that prevents inbreeding and promotes outcrossing. The self-incompatibility response is genetically controlled by one or more multi-allelic loci, and relies on a series of complex cellular interactions between the self-incompatible pollen and pistil. Although self-incompatibility functions ultimately to prevent self-fertilization, flowering plants have evolved several unique mechanisms for rejecting the self-incompatible pollen. The self-incompatibility system in the Solanaceae makes use of a multi-allelic RNase in the pistil to block incompatible pollen tube growth. In contrast, the Papaveraceae system appears to have complex cellular responses such as calcium fluxes, actin rearrangements, and programmed cell death occurring in the incompatible pollen tube. Finally, the Brassicaceae system has a receptor kinase signalling pathway activated in the pistil leading to pollen rejection. This review highlights the recent advances made towards understanding the cellular mechanisms involved in these self-incompatibility systems and discusses the striking differences between these systems.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Author information

Additional information

Received 10 May 2001; received after revision 20 June 2001; accepted 20 June 2001

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Silva, N., Goring, D. Mechanisms of self-incompatibility in flowering plants. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 58, 1988–2007 (2001).

Download citation

  • Key words. Self-incompatibility; S locus; S-RNase; S protein; S locus glycoprotein; S receptor kinase.