Irradiated gametes as a means of limited gene transfer in plant breeding
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Following reports that limited gene transfer may be facilitated by making crosses with irradiated pollen, a debate has arisen as to the cause of the observed results. If maternal trends that occurred in the second generation (the M2) were largely due to the persistence of radiation induced damage, then pollen irradiation would be of little value to plant breeders. But if much of the paternal genome had been eliminated, the method could offer breeders a cheap and simple means of transferring just a few characters from one plant genome to another. By carrying out reciprocal irradiated and control crosses, it was shown in this study with barley that mutational damage is not widespread in the M2. However, consistent trends away from the F2 towards the maternal expression were not observed either. When instead the female gamete was irradiated, moderate shifts to the paternal expression did occur. As trends were for increased vigour, mutational damage is unlikely to have been the cause of these observations. By contrast, when irradiated pollen crosses were made between three varieties of potato, the M1 and M2 were consistently lower scoring than the controls. It is suggested that the results may have been different in the two species because polyploids such as the potato may be better able to tolerate radiation damage than diploids such as barley. Gamete irradiation may, therefore, be of little value in polyploid crops. It is recommended that, at least in diploid species, ovule irradiation should be further investigated because not only may it be more effective than its male equivalent, but it may also be easier to perform. Both techniques may be useful in breaking down linkages resistant to conventional crossing.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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