Sterility (physiology)

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Sterility is the physiological inability to effect sexual reproduction in a living thing, members of whose kind have been produced sexually. The term may be used in reference to

  • types of organism, such as the mule, a sterile hybrid;
  • individual organisms; sterility indicates an absolute and permanent inability to produce offspring, unlike infertility, which may be temporary or indicate only a reduced level of fertility.
  • specific sexual organs; for example in some flowering plants, one or more stamens may be reduced to sterile staminodes.

Sterility has a wide range of causes. It may be an inherited trait, as in the mule; or it may be acquired from the environment, for example through physical injury or disease, or by exposure to radiation.

Economic uses of sterility include

  • the production of certain kinds of seedless fruit, such as seedless tomato[1] or watermelon (though sterility is not the only available route to fruit seedlessness);
  • so-called terminator technology, methods for restricting the use of genetically modified plants by causing second generation seeds to be sterile;
  • the sterile insect technique, a method of biological control in which large numbers of sterile insects are released, which compete with fertile insects for food and mates, thus reducing the population size of subsequent generations.

Vitamin E(Tocopherols) can prevent sterility.Vitamin E is called Antisterilitic Factor.


  1. ^ Nowicki, Marcin et al. (26 October 2013), More than meets the eye: A multi-year expressivity analyses of tomato sterility in ps and ps-2 lines, Australian Journal of Crop Science, 7(13):2154-2161; Southern Cross Publishing, retrieved 2013-10-29