In plants, male sterility can be caused either by mitochondrial genes with coupled nuclear genes or by nuclear genes alone; the resulting conditions are known as cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) and genic male sterility (GMS), respectively. CMS and GMS facilitate hybrid seed production for many crops and thus allow breeders to harness yield gains associated with hybrid vigor (heterosis). In CMS, layers of interaction between mitochondrial and nuclear genes control its male specificity, occurrence, and restoration of fertility. Environment-sensitive GMS (EGMS) mutants may involve epigenetic control by noncoding RNAs and can revert to fertility under different growth conditions, making them useful breeding materials in the hybrid seed industry. Here, we review recent research on CMS and EGMS systems in crops, summarize general models of male sterility and fertility restoration, and discuss the evolutionary significance of these reproductive systems.


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