Differential gene expression among three sex types reveals a MALE STERILITY 1 (CpMS1) for sex differentiation in papaya

Dessireé Zerpa-Catanho, Jennifer Wai, Ming Li Wang, Li'Ang Yu, Julie Nguyen, Ray Ming*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Carica papaya is a trioecious plant species with a genetic sex-determination system defined by sex chromosomes. Under unfavorable environmental conditions male and hermaphrodite exhibit sex-reversal. Previous genomic research revealed few candidate genes for sex differentiation in this species. Nevertheless, more analysis is still needed to identify the mechanism responsible for sex flower organ development in papaya. Results: The aim of this study was to identify differentially expressed genes among male, female and hermaphrodite flowers in papaya during early (pre-meiosis) and later (post-meiosis) stages of flower development. RNA-seq was used to evaluate the expression of differentially expressed genes and RT-qPCR was used to verify the results. Putative functions of these genes were analyzed based on their homology with orthologs in other plant species and their expression patterns. We identified a Male Sterility 1 gene (CpMS1) highly up-regulated in male and hermaphrodite flower buds compared to female flower buds, which expresses in small male flower buds (3-8 mm), and that might be playing an important role in male flower organ development due to its homology to MS1 genes previously identified in other plants. This is the first study in which the sex-biased expression of genes related to tapetum development in the anther developmental pathway is being reported in papaya. Besides important transcription factors related to flower organ development and flowering time regulation, we identified differential expression of genes that are known to participate in ABA, ROS and auxin signaling pathways (ABA-8-hydroxylases, AIL5, UPBEAT 1, VAN3-binding protein). Conclusions: CpMS1 was expressed in papaya male and hermaphrodite flowers at early stages, suggesting that this gene might participate in male flower organ development processes, nevertheless, this gene cannot be considered a sex-determination gene. Due to its homology with other plant MS1 proteins and its expression pattern, we hypothesize that this gene participates in anther development processes, like tapetum and pollen development, downstream gender specification. Further gene functional characterization studies in papaya are required to confirm this hypothesis. The role of ABA and ROS signaling pathways in papaya flower development needs to be further explored as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number545
JournalBMC Plant Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 9 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Carica papaya
  • Flower development
  • Male sterility gene
  • RNA-Seq
  • RT-qPCR
  • Sex differentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Differential gene expression among three sex types reveals a MALE STERILITY 1 (CpMS1) for sex differentiation in papaya'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this