Pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) proteins form a large family of proteins targeted to organelles, where they post-transcriptionally modulate gene expression through binding to specific RNA sequences. Among them, the mitochondria-targeted restorer-of-fertility (Rf) PPRs inhibit peculiar mitochondrial genes that are detrimental to male gametes and cause cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS). Here, we revealed three nuclear loci involved in CMS in a cross between two distant Arabidopsis thaliana strains, Sha and Cvi-0. We identified the causal gene at one of these loci as RFL24, a conserved gene encoding a PPR protein related to known Rf PPRs. By analysing fertile revertants obtained in a male sterile background, we demonstrate that RFL24 promotes pollen abortion, in contrast with the previously described Rf PPRs, which allow pollen to survive in the presence of a sterilizing cytoplasm. We show that the sterility caused by the RFL24 Cvi-0 allele results from higher expression of the gene during early pollen development. Finally, we predict a binding site for RFL24 upstream of two mitochondrial genes, the CMS gene and the important gene cob. These results suggest that the conservation of RFL24 is linked to a primary role of ensuring a proper functioning of mitochondria, and that it was subsequently diverted by the CMS gene to its benefit. Supporting Information.
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