Most dioecious plants do not exhibit discernible sexual dimorphism before sexual maturity. Therefore, it is impossible to address any sex-related questions during the prereproductive phase unless a genetic sex marker is available for gender determination. The aim of the present study was to develop a genetic sex marker for the moss Pseudocalliergon trifarium to allow gender and sex ratio determination at any stage in the life cycle. A high proportion of P. trifarium populations do not express sex. The screening of genomic DNA with inter simple sequence repeat (ISSR) primers was used to discover sex- specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification products. A presumably female-specific band was found, excised from the gel, cloned, and sequenced. A sequence-walking method was used to characterize the same region in males. A primer pair was designed to allow the amplification of a 159-bp portion of the female-specific DNA region. All tested material, up to 16-year-old herbarium specimens, provided unambiguous amplification products. This study successfully provides, for the first time in a moss, a sex- specific DNA marker. It allows reliable determination of gender and sex ratios. The short length of the amplification product is an advantage as satisfactory PCR products are more likely when the targeted sequence is short. The amount of variation in the DNA region shared by both sexes was relatively high. If the male sequence can be better characterized, the sex- specific regions could possibly be used to evaluate sex- specific phylogeographic patterns.
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