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Development and validation of candidate gene-specific markers for the major fertility restorer genes, Rf4 and Rf3 in rice

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Two major nuclear genes, Rf3 and Rf4, are known to be associated with fertility restoration of wild-abortive cytoplasmic male sterility (WA-CMS) in rice. In the present study, through a comparative sequence analysis of the reported putative candidate genes, viz. PPR9-782-(M,I) and PPR762 (for Rf4) and SF21 (for Rf3), among restorer and maintainer lines of rice, we identified significant polymorphism between the two lines and developed a set of PCR-based codominant markers, which could distinguish maintainers from restorers. Among the five markers developed targeting the polymorphisms in PPR9-782-(M,I), the marker RMS-PPR9-1 was observed to show clear polymorphism between the restorer (n = 120) and maintainer lines (n = 44) analyzed. Another codominant marker, named RMS-PPR762 targeting PPR762, displayed a lower efficiency in identification of restorers and maintainers, indicating that PPR9-782-(M,I) is indeed the candidate gene for Rf4. With respect to Rf3, a codominant marker, named RMS-SF21-5 developed targeting SF21, displayed significantly lower efficiency in identification of restorers and non-restorers as compared to the Rf4-specific markers. Validation of these markers in a F2 mapping population segregating for fertility restoration indicated that Rf4 has a major influence on fertility restoration and Rf3 is a minor gene. Further, the functional marker RMS-PPR9-1 was observed to be very useful in identification of impurities in a seed lot of the popular hybrid, DRRH3. Interestingly, when RMS-PPR9-1 and RMS-SF21-5 were considered in conjunction with analysis, near-complete, marker–trait co-segregation was observed, indicating that deployment of the candidate gene-specific markers both Rf4 and Rf3, together, can be helpful in accurate identification of fertility restorer lines and can facilitate targeted transfer of the two restorer genes into elite varieties through marker-assisted breeding.

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K. Pranathi would like to thank Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, for the INSPIRE fellowship awarded for Ph.D. studies. The authors would also like to thank the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, for the generous funding support for the research work presented in the study.

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Correspondence to R. M. Sundaram.

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K. Pranathi and R. M. Sundaram have contributed equally to this work.

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Pranathi, K., Viraktamath, B.C., Neeraja, C.N. et al. Development and validation of candidate gene-specific markers for the major fertility restorer genes, Rf4 and Rf3 in rice. Mol Breeding 36, 145 (2016).

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