Stylar ribonucleases (RNases) are associated with gametophytic self-incompatibility in two plant families, the Solanaceae and the Rosaceae. The self-incompatibility-associated RNases (S-RNases) of both the Solanaceae and the Rosaceae were recently reported to belong to the T2 RNase gene family, based on the presence of two well-conserved sequence motifs. Here, the cloning and characterization of S-RNase genes from two species of Rosaceae, apple (Malus x domestica) and Japanese pear (Pyrus serotina) is described and these sequences are compared with those of other T2-type RNases. The S-RNases of apple specifically accumulated in styles following maturation of the flower bud. Two cDNA clones for S-RNases from apple, and PCR clones encoding a further two apple S-RNases as well as two Japanese pear S-RNases were isolated and sequenced. The deduced amino acid sequences of the rosaceous S-RNases contained two conserved regions characteristic of the T2/S-type RNases. The sequences showed a high degree of diversity, with similarities ranging from 60.4% to 69.2%. Interestingly, some interspecific sequence similarities were higher than those within a species, possibly indicating that diversification of S-RNase alleles predated speciation in the Rosaceae. A phylogenetic tree of members of the T2/S-RNase superfamily in plants was obtained. The rosaceous S-RNases formed a new lineage in the tree that was distinct from those of the solanaceous S-RNases and the S-like RNases. The findings suggested that self-incompatibility mechanisms in Rosaceae and Solanaceae are similar but arose independently in the course of evolution.
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