Intricate environment-modulated genetic networks control isoflavone accumulation in soybean seeds

Juan J. Gutierrez-Gonzalez, Xiaolei Wu, Jason D. Gillman, Jeong Dong Lee, Rui Zhong, Oliver Yu, Grover Shannon, Mark Ellersieck, Henry T. Nguyen, David A. Sleper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: Soybean (Glycine max [L] Merr.) seed isoflavones have long been considered a desirable trait to target in selection programs for their contribution to human health and plant defense systems. However, attempts to modify seed isoflavone contents have not always produced the expected results because their genetic basis is polygenic and complex. Undoubtedly, the extreme variability that seed isoflavones display over environments has obscured our understanding of the genetics involved.Results: In this study, a mapping population of RILs with three replicates was analyzed in four different environments (two locations over two years). We found a total of thirty-five main-effect genomic regions and many epistatic interactions controlling genistein, daidzein, glycitein and total isoflavone accumulation in seeds. The use of distinct environments permitted detection of a great number of environment-modulated and minor-effect QTL. Our findings suggest that isoflavone seed concentration is controlled by a complex network of multiple minor-effect loci interconnected by a dense epistatic map of interactions. The magnitude and significance of the effects of many of the nodes and connections in the network varied depending on the environmental conditions. In an attempt to unravel the genetic architecture underlying the traits studied, we searched on a genome-wide scale for genomic regions homologous to the most important identified isoflavone biosynthetic genes. We identified putative candidate genes for several of the main-effect and epistatic QTL and for QTL reported by other groups.Conclusions: To better understand the underlying genetics of isoflavone accumulation, we performed a large scale analysis to identify genomic regions associated with isoflavone concentrations. We not only identified a number of such regions, but also found that they can interact with one another and with the environment to form a complex adaptable network controlling seed isoflavone levels. We also found putative candidate genes in several regions and overall we advanced the knowledge of the genetics underlying isoflavone synthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105
JournalBMC plant biology
StatePublished - Jun 11 2010

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