© 2014 The Authors The Plant Journal © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
The cellular roles of RAD51 paralogs in somatic and reproductive growth have been extensively described in a wide range of animal systems and, to a lesser extent, in Arabidopsis, a dicot model plant. Here, the OsRAD51D gene was identified and characterized in rice (Oryza sativa L.), a monocot model crop. In the rice genome, three alternative OsRAD51D mRNA splicing variants, OsRAD51D.1, OsRAD51D.2, and OsRAD51D.3, were predicted. Yeast two-hybrid studies, however, showed that only OsRAD51D.1 interacted with OsRAD51B and OsRAD51C paralogs, suggesting that OsRAD51D.1 is a functional OsRAD51D protein in rice. Loss-of-function osrad51d mutant rice plants displayed normal vegetative growth. However, the mutant plants were defective in reproductive growth, resulting in sterile flowers. Homozygous osrad51d mutant flowers exhibited impaired development of lemma and palea and contained unusual numbers of stamens and stigmas. During early meiosis, osrad51d pollen mother cells (PMCs) failed to form normal homologous chromosome pairings. In subsequent meiotic progression, mutant PMCs represented fragmented chromosomes. The osrad51d pollen cells contained numerous abnormal micro-nuclei that resulted in malfunctioning pollen. The abnormalities of heterozygous mutant and T2 Ubi:RNAi-OsRAD51D RNAi-knock-down transgenic plants were intermediate between those of wild type and homozygous mutant plants. The osrad51d and Ubi:RNAi-OsRAD51D plants contained longer telomeres compared with wild type plants, indicating that OsRAD51D is a negative factor for telomere lengthening. Overall, these results suggest that OsRAD51D plays a critical role in reproductive growth in rice. This essential function of OsRAD51D is distinct from Arabidopsis, in which AtRAD51D is not an essential factor for meiosis or reproductive development.