The sexual differentiation of Cannabis sativa L.: A morphological and molecular study
Cannabis sativa L. is a dioecious species with sexual dimorphism occurring in a late stage of plant development. Sex is determined by heteromorphic chromosomes (X and Y): male is the heterogametic sex (XY) and female is the homogametic one (XX). The sexual phenotype of Cannabis often shows some flexibility leading to the differentiation of hermaphrodite flowers or bisexual inflorescences (monoecious phenotype). Sex is considered an important trait for hemp genetic improvement; therefore, the study of the mechanism of sexual differentiation is of paramount interest in hemp research. A morphological and molecular study of Cannabis sativa sexual differentiation has been carried out in the Italian dioecious cultivar Fibranova.
Microscopic analysis of male and female apices revealed that their reproductive commitment may occur as soon as the leaves of the fourth node emerge; the genetic expression of male and female apices at this stage has been compared by cDNA-AFLP. A rapid method for the early sex discrimination has been developed, based on the PCR amplification of a male-specific SCAR marker directly from a tissue fragment.
Five of the several cDNA-AFLP polymorphic fragments identified have been confirmed to be differentially expressed in male and female apices at the fourth node. Cloning and sequencing revealed that they belong to nine different mRNAs that were all induced in the female apices at this stage. Four out of them showed a high degree of similarity with known sequences: a putative permease, a SMT3-like protein, a putative kinesin and a RAC-GTP binding protein.
Key wordsCannabis sativa cDNA-AFLP dioecy sex linked markers sexual differentiation
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