Background: Male sterility is a useful agronomic trait for breeding of self-pollinating crops and is often observed in the progenies of hybrids of distantly related species, for example, Oryza sativa L. subsp. indica and O. sativa L. subsp. japonica. To explore new male sterile lines in rice, we performed successive backcrosses using a japonica cultivar Taichung 65 (T65) as a recurrent pollen parent and various indica cultivars as the initial female parents. Findings: We observed male sterile plants in the backcross progeny from an indica cultivar, Lebed. Both fertile and sterile plants were present in the BC4F1 generation. The sterile plants segregated for fertile and sterile plants when backcrossed with T65 in BC5F1, BC6F1 and BC7F1 with a ratio of 1:1. Conversely, all the backcross progenies from the fertile BC4F1 were consistently fertile. Anthers of the male sterile line were stunted and did not shed pollen; cross-sectional observations revealed defects in sporophytic cells. The male sterility appears to be caused by heterozygous alleles derived from T65 and Lebed. A male sterility gene was mapped between two INDEL markers on the long arm of chromosome 10, which corresponded to a 407 kb region in the Nipponbare genome. Conclusions: Since the heterozygous Lebed allele acts as dominant sporophytic pollen killer, it would be useful for recurrent selection breeding of japonica rice.
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