Long-term study of a subdioecious Populus x canescens family reveals sex lability of females and reproduction behaviour of cosexual plants
Populus species are dioecious, but deviations from dioecy are reported in some cases. The objectives of this study were to investigate the phenotypic expression and the inheritance of subdioecy in a Populus ×canescens pedigree. The F1 progeny was monitored for sex during 14 years. Thirty per cent of individuals expressed deviations from dioecy and long-term plasticity of sex. Some plants started flowering as male, then became cosexual, and finally turned female. Two cosexual individuals were self-pollinated and generated a selfed progeny markedly impaired by inbreeding depression, but able to repro-duce by outcrossing. Sex segregation of the F1 progeny statistically fitted the expected ratio 1:2:1 (female:male:cosexual). By analysis of DNA markers, the cosexual individuals were genetically clustered with the females. The segregation ratio and the genetic profile indicated that cosexual plants were female with altered sex phenotype. Linkage analysis identified a putative sex-determining region with suppressed recombination on chromosome 19 of the male Populus tremula parent. The male sex trait was linked to the pericentromeric region of the 19 of the female Populus alba parent. A genetic model is proposed to explain inheritance and phenotypic expression of sex.