A new released Chinese soybean genome facilitates soybean elite cultivar improvement

August 3, 2018, Science China Press
Genome sequence comparison between Zhonghuang 13 and Williams 82 genomes. Credit: Science China Press

Soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merr.) is one of the most important crops, providing more than half of global oilseed production and more than a quarter of the world's protein for food and animal feed. Studies have indicated that the cultivated soybean was domesticated in China approximately 5,000 years ago and then disseminated worldwide. During the introduction and dissemination process, soybean has undergone strictly genetic bottlenecks, resulting in the accessions from different geographic areas possibly exhibiting high genetic diversity. The current soybean reference genome was sequenced from Williams 82, which is a cultivar domesticated in America. Asia is one of the largest soybean planting and consuming areas, its soybean production is essential for global food security. A high-quality reference genome is crucial for functional analysis of a species. Therefore, it is necessary to assemble a new high-quality soybean genome from Asian soybean accessions to facilitate Asia soybean functional genomics study and elite cultivar improvement.

Biologists from the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and Berry Genomics Corporation assembled a new from a Chinese soybean accession "Zhonghuang 13" by combination of SMRT, Hi-C and optical mapping data.

"Our finally assembled genome is 1.025 Gb. Its contig N50 is 3.46 Mb, and scaffold N50 is 51.87 Mb. To the best of our knowledge, it is the fourth contiguous plant genome that has been reported to date." said Dr. Yanting Shen, the senior author for this work. "Comparing to the previously commonly used soybean reference genome, the quality of our new assembled genome is significantly improved, it has longer total sequence length, higher contig N50 and scaffold N50, and fewer gaps". Moreover, after careful comparison of the genome sequences between Zhonghuang 13 and Williams 82, the research team found that the Zhonghuang 13 genome displays large number of genetic variations with that of Williams 82. "We identified more than 250,000 structure variation events, including 1,404 translocations, 161 inversions, 1,233 translocation & inversions, 505,506 indels (1-99 bp) and 17,409 accession specific insertions (>=100 bp)", said Yanting.

"This work is a great collaborative effort by scientists from different areas. For example, to make the new genome annotation more accurate and informative, we asked for help from Dr. Jianchang Du, an expert in transposable elements study" said the corresponding author Dr. Zhixi Tian, a scientist working on a soybean functional genome. Through comprehensive analyses, a total of 36,429 transposable elements and 52,051 protein coding genes were annotated in the new genome. "QTL and GWAS are useful approaches to investigate the loci controlling traits. However, it is difficult to identify the causal gene directly from QTL and GWAS because they usually result in large candidate regions. Gene co-expression network is a powerful approach to explore gene regulatory relationships and to predict gene function. We think a gene co-expression network may assist important agronomic genes mining when combing with QTL and GWAS. Therefore, we asked help from Dr. Shisong Ma, an expert on gene co-expression network from University of Science and Technology of China", said Zhixi.

"To test this hypothesis, we established a comprehensive gene co-expression network for the annotation genes using transcriptome datasets from 1,978 soybean RNA-seq that deposited in the NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRA). This network contain 39,967 genes and 330,864 co-expressed gene pairs", said Dr. Shisong Ma, the collaborator and one of the co-corresponding author. The usage of gene co-expression network was tested by exploring new genes related to soybean flowering time and content. "Our gene co-expression network narrowed number of soybean flowering time candidate genes from 7,971 to 26 directly, which was effective in candidate gene mining," said Yanting, "Further, we confirmed the function for one candidate gene SoyZH13_16G177400 by correlating its haplotype and phenotype information in our previously re-sequenced natural population." Besides the gene related to flowering time, another gene controlling soybean linoleic acid content is also be confirmed using the same strategy. Dr. Baoge Zhu, a biologist who has been working on soybean breeding for more than 20 years from the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Science, commented "This method is very novel and helpful for our soybean researchers and breeders. We can use it to select candidate genes effectively for agronomically important phenotypes."

All authors hope that this new genome will facilitate legume genomics research and soybean crop improvement in the future.

Explore further: Soybean genomes unmasked

More information: Yanting Shen et al, De novo assembly of a Chinese soybean genome, Science China Life Sciences (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s11427-018-9360-0

Related Stories

Soybean genomes unmasked

March 22, 2018

Approximately 340 million metric tons of soybeans are produced globally each year, with the market for soybeans worth $40 billion in the U.S. alone. Having a map of soybean genes is key for breeders, who work to develop varieties ...

Australian vine can boost soybean yield, study says

April 3, 2018

Growing in its native Australia, the unobtrusive perennial vine Glycine tomentella could easily be overlooked. But the distant relative of soybean contains genetic resources that can substantially increase soybean yield, ...

High yield, protein with soybean gene

November 22, 2017

Leftovers can be quite valuable. For instance, when soybean seed is crushed and the oil extracted, what's left is called soybean meal. You'll want to save this leftover.

A new tool for identifying key soybean genes

February 19, 2014

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers in Beltsville, Md. have developed a new tool to search for soybean genes that will make soybean plants more productive and better able to resist pests and diseases.

Novel gene for salt tolerance found in wild soybean

July 11, 2014

A team of researchers from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, BGI and other institutes have identified a gene of wild soybean linked to salt tolerance, with implication for improving this important crop to grow in saline ...

Recommended for you

Semimetals are high conductors

March 18, 2019

Researchers in China and at UC Davis have measured high conductivity in very thin layers of niobium arsenide, a type of material called a Weyl semimetal. The material has about three times the conductivity of copper at room ...

Researchers discover new material to help power electronics

March 18, 2019

Electronics rule our world, but electrons rule our electronics. A research team at The Ohio State University has discovered a way to simplify how electronic devices use those electrons—using a material that can serve dual ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.