Functional characterization of soybean strigolactone biosynthesis and signaling genes in Arabidopsis MAX mutants and GmMAX3 in soybean nodulation

BMC Plant Biol. 2017 Dec 21;17(1):259. doi: 10.1186/s12870-017-1182-4.


Background: Strigolactones (SLs) play important roles in controlling root growth, shoot branching, and plant-symbionts interaction. Despite the importance, the components of SL biosynthesis and signaling have not been unequivocally explored in soybean.

Results: Here we identified the putative components of SL synthetic enzymes and signaling proteins in soybean genome. Soybean genome contains conserved MORE AXILLARY BRANCHING (MAX) orthologs, GmMAX1s, GmMAX2s, GmMAX3s, and GmMAX4s. The tissue expression patterns are coincident with SL synthesis in roots and signaling in other tissues under normal conditions. GmMAX1a, GmMAX2a, GmMAX3b, and GmMAX4a expression in their Arabidopsis orthologs' mutants not only restored most characteristic phenotypes, such as shoot branching and shoot height, leaf shape, primary root length, and root hair growth, but also restored the significantly changed hormone contents, such as reduced JA and ABA contents in all mutant leaves, but increased auxin levels in atmax1, atmax3 and atmax4 mutants. Overexpression of these GmMAXs also altered the hormone contents in wild-type Arabidopsis. GmMAX3b was further characterized in soybean nodulation with overexpression and knockdown transgenic hairy roots. GmMAX3b overexpression (GmMAX3b-OE) lines exhibited increased nodule number while GmMAX3b knockdown (GmMAX3b-KD) decreased the nodule number in transgenic hairy roots. The expression levels of several key nodulation genes were also altered in GmMAX3b transgenic hairy roots. GmMAX3b overexpression hairy roots had reduced ABA, but increased JA levels, with no significantly changed auxin content, while the contrast changes were observed in GmMAX3b-KD lines. Global gene expression in GmMAX3b-OE or GmMAX3b-KD hairy roots also revealed that altered expression of GmMAX3b in soybean hairy roots changed several subsets of genes involved in hormone biosynthesis and signaling and transcriptional regulation of nodulation processes.

Conclusions: This study not only revealed the conservation of SL biosynthesis and signaling in soybean, but also showed possible interactions between SL and other hormone synthesis and signaling during controlling plant development and soybean nodulation. GmMAX3b-mediated SL biosynthesis and signaling may be involved in soybean nodulation by affecting both root hair formation and its interaction with rhizobia.

Keywords: Genetic complementation; GmMAX3; Hormone interaction; Nodulation; Soybean; Strigolactones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Dioxygenases / genetics*
  • Dioxygenases / metabolism
  • Lactones / metabolism*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plant Root Nodulation / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Signal Transduction
  • Soybeans / genetics
  • Soybeans / physiology*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Lactones
  • Plant Proteins
  • Dioxygenases