Mating systems in plants are known to be highly labile traits, with frequent transitions from outcrossing to selfing. The genetic basis for breakdown in self-incompatibility (SI) systems has been studied, but data on variation in selfing rates in species for which the molecular basis of SI is known are rare. This study surveyed such variation in Arabidopsis lyrata (Brassicaceae), which is often considered an obligately outcrossing species, to examine the causes and genetic consequences of changes in its breeding system. Based on controlled self-pollinations in the greenhouse, three populations from the Great Lakes region of North America included a minority of self-compatible (SC) individuals, while two showed larger proportions of SC individuals and all populations contained some individuals capable of setting selfed seeds. Loss of SI was not associated with particular haplotypes at the S-locus (as estimated by alleles amplified at the SRK locus, the gene controlling female specificity) and all populations contained similar numbers of SRK alleles, suggesting that some other genetic factor is responsible for modifying the SI reaction. The loss of SI has resulted in an effective shift in the mating system, as the two populations with a high frequency of SC individuals showed significantly lower microsatellite-based multilocus outcrossing rates and higher inbreeding coefficients than the other populations. Based on microsatellites, observed heterozygosities and genetic diversity were also significantly depressed in these populations. These findings provide the unique opportunity to examine in detail the consequences of mating system changes within a species with a well-characterized SI system.
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Vol. 59 • No. 7