Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

Unusual Cabbage Mutation that Could Boost Crop Yield


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cabbage Mutation

Mains level : Read the attached story

cabbage mutation


  • A recent paper sheds light on the remarkable ability to induce sterility in a diverse range of plants, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomato, and rice. This sterility is achieved through a minute genetic deletion.
  • This deletion holds the promise of significantly boosting crop yields through a phenomenon known as heterosis.

Unveiling Genetics

  • DNA Structure: DNA consists of two long strands, each comprising four nucleotide bases: Adenine (A), Cytosine (C), Guanine (G), and Thymine (T). These bases form pairs (A-T and G-C) held together by hydrogen bonds.
  • Genome Organization: The cabbage plant (Brassica oleracea) genome contains approximately 1.06 billion base pairs distributed across 18 chromosomes. Each chromosome pair, derived from pollen and egg, shares a mostly identical sequence.
  • Role of Genes: Genes are well-defined DNA sequences, typically spanning a few thousand base pairs. When expressed, a gene’s segment is transcribed into RNA, which serves as the blueprint for protein synthesis.
  • Protein Production: RNA is processed by cellular machinery called ribosomes, directing the assembly of amino acids into proteins.

Role of Sterility in Hybrid Vigor

  • Discovery of Ms-cd1: Around 44 years ago, a cabbage plant with a natural mutation known as Ms-cd1 was identified. This mutation rendered the plant male-sterile, with a crucial twist: the eggs of the mutant plant could still be fertilized by pollen from normal plants, yielding normal seeds.
  • Hybrid Seeds: All seeds from mutant plants resulted from out-crossing, where eggs were fertilized by pollen from different strains. Such hybrid seeds, also called out-cross seeds, give rise to more robust plants with enhanced vigor, known as heterosis.
  • Dominant Mutation: The Ms-cd1 mutation was found to be dominant, meaning its presence in just one chromosome of the pair caused male sterility, regardless of the other chromosome’s status.
  • Recessive Mutations: The researchers demonstrated that mutations in both copies of the Ms-cd1 gene were necessary for male fertility. In such cases, the mutations became recessive.

Crucial Missing Base-Pair

  • Genetic Mapping: Through genetic mapping, researchers identified a crucial distinction between the mutated and non-mutated Ms-cd1 genes: the mutated gene lacked a single DNA base pair in its promoter region.
  • Promoter’s Role: The promoter sequence binds to regulatory proteins that control when and in which cells a gene is transcribed into RNA.
  • ERF Binding: In the mutated gene, this missing base-pair disrupted its binding to the regulatory protein ERF, allowing the Ms-cd1 gene to remain expressed, leading to male sterility.
  • Fine-Tuning of Protein Levels: Proper pollen development depends on a precise balance of Ms-cd1 protein levels, with ERF binding regulating its expression at different stages of development.

Extending the Discovery

  • Cross-Species Applicability: The dominant mutant gene was introduced into other plant species, including rice, tomato, and arabidopsis. In all cases, the recipient plants exhibited pollen developmental disruptions.
  • A Promising Tool: The genetic deletion of a single base-pair emerges as a powerful tool to produce hybrid seeds, not only in cabbage but also in various other crops.
  • Implications for Agriculture: This breakthrough offers the potential to harness heterosis and enhance crop yields across plant species, addressing global food security challenges.


  • The genetic deletion that induces male sterility in plants represents a remarkable stride in agricultural science, offering the prospect of abundant harvests through hybrid seeds.
  • This discovery opens new doors for sustainable agriculture and reinforces the critical role of genetic research in addressing the world’s growing food demands.

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