Key messageWe have developed a unique male-sterility and fertility-restoration system in rice by combining Brassica napus cysteine-protease gene (BnCysP1) with anther-specific P12 promoter of rice for facilitating production of hybrid varieties.AbstractIn diverse crop plants, male-sterility has been exploited as a useful approach for production of hybrid varieties to harness the benefits of hybrid vigour. The promoter region of Os12bglu38 gene of rice has been isolated from the developing panicles and was designated as P12. The promoter was fused with gusA reporter gene and was expressed in Arabidopsis and rice systems. Transgenic plants exhibited GUS activity in tapetal cells and pollen of the developing anthers indicating anther/pollen-specific expression of the promoter. For engineering nuclear male sterility, the coding region of Brassica napus cysteine protease1 (BnCysP1) was isolated from developing seeds and fused to P12 promoter. Transgenic rice plants obtained with P12-BnCysP1 failed to produce functional pollen grains. The F1 seeds obtained from BnCysP1 male-sterile plants and untransformed controls showed 1:1 (tolerant:sensitive) ratio when germinated on the MS medium supplemented with phosphinothricin (5 mg/l), confirming that the male sterility has been successfully engineered in rice. For male fertility restoration, transgenic rice plants carrying BnCysP1Si silencing system were developed. The pollination of BnCysP1 male-sterile (female-fertile) plants with BnCysP1Si pollen resulted in normal grain filling. The F1 seeds of BnCysP1 × BnCysP1Si when germinated on the MS basal medium containing PPT (5 mg/l) and hygromycin (70 mg/l) exhibited 1:1 (tolerant:sensitive) ratio and the tolerant plants invariably showed normal grain filling. The overall results clearly suggest that the customized male-sterility & fertility-restoration system can be exploited for quality hybrid seed production in various crops.