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The MYB transcription factor Baymax1 plays a critical role in rice male fertility

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Key message Rice male fertility gene Baymax1 , isolated through map-based cloning, encodes a MYB transcription factor and is essential for rice tapetum and microspore development.

Abstract The mining and characterization of male fertility gene will provide theoretical and material basis for future rice production. In Arabidopsis, the development of male organ (namely anther), usually involves the coordination between MYB (v-myb avian myeloblastosis viral oncogene homolog) and bHLH (basic helix-loop-helix) members. However, the role of MYB proteins in rice anther development remains poorly understood. In this study, we isolated and characterized a male sterile mutant (with normal vegetative growth) of Baymax1 (BM1), which encodes a MYB protein. The bm1 mutant exhibited slightly lagging meiosis, aborted transition of the tapetum to a secretory type, premature tapetal degeneration, and abnormal pollen exine formation, leading to ultimately lacks of visible pollens in the mature white anthers. Map-based cloning, complementation and targeted mutagenesis using CRISPR/Cas9 technology demonstrated that the mutated LOC_Os04g39470 is the causal gene in bm1. BM1 is preferentially expressed in rice anthers from stage 5 to stage 10. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that rice BM1 and its homologs in millet, maize, rape, cabbage, and pigeonpea are evolutionarily conserved. BM1 can physically interacts with bHLH protein TIP2, EAT1, and PHD (plant homeodomain)-finger member TIP3, respectively. Moreover, BM1 affects the expression of several known genes related to tapetum and microspore development. Collectively, our results suggest that BM1 is one of key regulators for rice male fertility and may serve as a potential target for rice male-sterile line breeding and hybrid seed production.

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Activation domain


Binding domain


Basic helix-loop-helix


Bimolecular fluorescence complementation


Bulked segregant analysis


Coding sequence


Cytoplasmic genetic male sterility


4′,6-Diamidine-2-phenylindole Dihydrodihydrochloride








Meiotic cells




V-myb avian myeloblastosis viral oncogene homolog


Open reading frame


Programmed cell death


Plant homeodomain


Photoperiod-thermo-sensitive genic male sterility


Scanning electron microscopy


Seed production technology


Simple sequence repeat


Transmission electron microscopy


Transcription factors


Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling


Yeast two-hybrid


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We thank Bio-ultrastructure analysis Lab. of Analysis center of Agrobiology and environmental sciences, Zhejiang Univ. for TEM and SEM observation. This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (#31801440, #31871236, and #31521064), the National Key Transform Program (#2016ZX08001-002), the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences Innovation Project (CAAS-ASTIP-2013-CNRRI).

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XJX, LPS, LYC, and SHC designed the study. XJX and LPS contributed to data acquisition, analysis and the original draft. PY, and ZFY provided methodology. PPZ, YXZ, WXW, DBC, XDZ, RMK, and AA offered assistance in data collection and draft revision. All authors reviewed the results and approved to submit the manuscript to your journal.

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Correspondence to Shi-Hua Cheng or Li-Yong Cao.

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Communicated by Takuji Sasaki.

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Xiang, XJ., Sun, LP., Yu, P. et al. The MYB transcription factor Baymax1 plays a critical role in rice male fertility. Theor Appl Genet 134, 453–471 (2021).

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