A global coexpression network of soybean genes gives insights into the evolution of nodulation in nonlegumes and legumes

New Phytol. 2019 Sep;223(4):2104-2119. doi: 10.1111/nph.15845. Epub 2019 Jul 25.


A coexpression network is a powerful tool for revealing genes' relationship with many biological processes. Mass transcriptomic and genomic data from different plant species provide the foundation for understanding the evolution of nodulation across the Viridiplantae at a systematic level. We used weighted coexpression network analysis (WGCNA) to mine a nodule-related module (NRM) in Glycine max. Comparative genomic analysis of 78 green plant species revealed that NRM genes are recruited from different evolutionary nodes along with gene duplication events. A set of core coexpressed genes within legumes may play vital roles in regulating nodule environments essential for nitrogen fixation, including oxygen concentrations, sulfur transport, and iron homeostasis (such as GmCHY). The regulation of these genes occurred mainly at the transcription level, although some of them, such as sulfate transporters, may also undergo positive selection at protein level. We revealed that ancient orthologs and duplication events before the origin of legumes were preadapted for symbiosis. Conserved coregulated genes found within legumes paved the way for nodule formation and nitrogen fixation. These findings provide significant insights into the evolution of nodulation and indicate promising candidates for identifying other key components of legume nodulation and nitrogen fixation.

Keywords: coexpression network; evolution; legume; nitrogen fixation; nodulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Gene Duplication
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Root Nodulation / genetics*
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Soybeans / genetics*