Introduction of barnase/barstar in soybean produces a rescuable male sterility system for hybrid breeding

Nicole Szeluga, Patricia Baldrich, Ryan DelPercio, Blake C. Meyers, Margaret H. Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hybrid breeding for increased vigour has been used for over a century to boost agricultural outputs without requiring higher inputs. While this approach has led to some of the most substantial gains in crop productivity, breeding barriers have fundamentally limited soybean (Glycine max) from reaping the benefits of hybrid vigour. Soybean flowers self-pollinate prior to opening and thus are not readily amenable to outcrossing. In this study, we demonstrate that the barnase/barstar male sterility/rescue system can be used in soybean to produce hybrid seeds. By expressing the cytotoxic ribonuclease, barnase, under a tapetum-specific promoter in soybean anthers, we are able to completely block pollen maturation, creating male sterile plants. We show that fertility can be rescued in the F1 generation of these barnase-expressing lines when they are crossed with pollen from plants that express the barnase inhibitor, barstar. Importantly, we found that the successful rescue of male fertility is dependent on the relative dosage of barnase and barstar. When barnase and barstar were expressed under the same tapetum-specific promoter, the F1 offspring remained male sterile. When we expressed barstar under a relatively stronger promoter than barnase, we were able to achieve a successful rescue of male fertility in the F1 generation. This work demonstrates the successful implementation of a biotechnology approach to produce fertile hybrid offspring in soybean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2585-2596
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Glycine max
  • barnase
  • barstar
  • hybrid breeding
  • male sterility
  • soybean


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