Background: Heterodera glycines, commonly referred to as the soybean cyst nematode (SCN), is an obligatory and sedentary plant parasite that causes over a billion-dollar yield loss to soybean production annually. Although there are genetic determinants that render soybean plants resistant to certain nematode genotypes, resistant soybean cultivars are increasingly ineffective because their multi-year usage has selected for virulent H. glycines populations. The parasitic success of H. glycines relies on the comprehensive re-engineering of an infection site into a syncytium, as well as the long-term suppression of host defense to ensure syncytial viability. At the forefront of these complex molecular interactions are effectors, the proteins secreted by H. glycines into host root tissues. The mechanisms of effector acquisition, diversification, and selection need to be understood before effective control strategies can be developed, but the lack of an annotated genome has been a major roadblock.
Results: Here, we use PacBio long-read technology to assemble a H. glycines genome of 738 contigs into 123 Mb with annotations for 29,769 genes. The genome contains significant numbers of repeats (34%), tandem duplicates (18.7 Mb), and horizontal gene transfer events (151 genes). A large number of putative effectors (431 genes) were identified in the genome, many of which were found in transposons.
Conclusions: This advance provides a glimpse into the host and parasite interplay by revealing a diversity of mechanisms that give rise to virulence genes in the soybean cyst nematode, including: tandem duplications containing over a fifth of the total gene count, virulence genes hitchhiking in transposons, and 107 horizontal gene transfers not reported in other plant parasitic nematodes thus far. Through extensive characterization of the H. glycines genome, we provide new insights into H. glycines biology and shed light onto the mystery underlying complex host-parasite interactions. This genome sequence is an important prerequisite to enable work towards generating new resistance or control measures against H. glycines.
Keywords: Effector; Evolution; Genome; Heterodera glycines; SCN; Soybean cyst nematode; Tandem duplication.