Genome-wide association studies dissect the genetic networks underlying agronomical traits in soybean

Genome Biol. 2017 Aug 24;18(1):161. doi: 10.1186/s13059-017-1289-9.


Background: Soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merr.) is one of the most important oil and protein crops. Ever-increasing soybean consumption necessitates the improvement of varieties for more efficient production. However, both correlations among different traits and genetic interactions among genes that affect a single trait pose a challenge to soybean breeding.

Results: To understand the genetic networks underlying phenotypic correlations, we collected 809 soybean accessions worldwide and phenotyped them for two years at three locations for 84 agronomic traits. Genome-wide association studies identified 245 significant genetic loci, among which 95 genetically interacted with other loci. We determined that 14 oil synthesis-related genes are responsible for fatty acid accumulation in soybean and function in line with an additive model. Network analyses demonstrated that 51 traits could be linked through the linkage disequilibrium of 115 associated loci and these links reflect phenotypic correlations. We revealed that 23 loci, including the known Dt1, E2, E1, Ln, Dt2, Fan, and Fap loci, as well as 16 undefined associated loci, have pleiotropic effects on different traits.

Conclusions: This study provides insights into the genetic correlation among complex traits and will facilitate future soybean functional studies and breeding through molecular design.

Keywords: Agronomic traits; GWAS; Network; Soybean.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breeding
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study* / methods
  • Genomics* / methods
  • Genotype
  • Glycine max / classification
  • Glycine max / genetics*
  • Glycine max / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny
  • Phylogeography
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*


  • Fatty Acids