In diploid organisms, phenotypic traits are often biased by effects known as Mendelian dominant-recessive interactions between inherited alleles. Phenotypic expression of SP11 alleles, which encodes the male determinants of self-incompatibility in Brassica rapa, is governed by a complex dominance hierarchy1-3. Here, we show that a single polymorphic 24 nucleotide small RNA, named SP11 methylation inducer 2 (Smi2), controls the linear dominance hierarchy of the four SP11 alleles (S44 > S60 > S40 > S29). In all dominant-recessive interactions, small RNA variants derived from the linked region of dominant SP11 alleles exhibited high sequence similarity to the promoter regions of recessive SP11 alleles and acted in trans to epigenetically silence their expression. Together with our previous study4, we propose a new model: sequence similarity between polymorphic small RNAs and their target regulates mono-allelic gene expression, which explains the entire five-phased linear dominance hierarchy of the SP11 phenotypic expression in Brassica.
ASJC Scopus subject areas