In gynodioecious plant populations, sex determination often involves both cytoplasmic male-sterility (CMS) genes and specific nuclear genes that restore male function. How gynodioecy is maintained under the joint dynamics of CMS and restorer genes remains controversial. Although many theoretical models deal with interactions between CMS genes and restorer genes with sexual phenotypes and predict changes in their frequencies, it is difficult to observe the frequencies because no molecular markers have been established for either CMS or restorer genes in well-studied gynodioecious plants. This is the first report of the frequency of a CMS gene determined using a molecular marker in natural populations of a gynodioecious plant. Using a set of CMS gene-specific polymerase chain reaction primers, we compared female and CMS gene frequencies in 18 natural populations of Raphanus sativus. Female frequency was relatively low, ranging from 0 to 0.21. In contrast, the CMS gene frequency was highly variable among populations, ranging from 0 to 1. Estimated restorer gene frequency seemed less variable than observed CMS gene frequency, probably due to higher gene flow than in the CMS gene. Genetic drift may play a role in maintaining high variability of the CMS gene, although other possibilities are not excluded.
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