Identification of Potential Gene Regulatory Pathways Affecting the Ratio of Four-Seed Pod in Soybean

Front Genet. 2021 Sep 1;12:717770. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.717770. eCollection 2021.


The number of four-seed pods is one of the most important agronomic traits affected by gene and environment that can potentially improve soybean (Glycine max) yield. However, the gene regulatory network that affects the ratio of four-seed pod (the ratio of the number of four-seed pods to the total number of pods in each individual plant) is yet unclear. Here, we performed bulked segregant RNA sequencing (BSR-seq) on a series of recombinant inbred lines (RILs) derived from hybrid progenies between Heinong 48 (HN48), a cultivar with a high ratio of four-seed pod, and Henong 64 (HN64), a cultivar with a low ratio of four-seed pod. Two tissues, flower bud and young pod, at two different growth stages, R1 and R3, were analyzed under the ratios of four-seed pod at less than 10% and greater than 30%, respectively. To identify the potential gene regulation pathways associated with the ratio of soybean four-seed pod, we performed differentially expressed analysis on the four bulked groups. A differentially expressed gene (DEG) encoding a photosystem II 5-kDa protein had the function of participating in the energy conversion of photosynthesis. In addition, 79 common DEGs were identified at different developmental stages and under different ratios of four-seed pod. Among them, four genes encoding calcium-binding proteins and a WRKY transcription factor were enriched in the plant-pathogen interaction pathway, and they showed a high level of expression in roots. Moreover, 10 DEGs were identified in the reported quantitative trait locus (QTL) interval of four-seed pod, and two of them were significantly enriched in the pentose and glucuronate interconversion pathway. These findings provide basic insights into the understanding of the underlying gene regulatory network affected by specific environment and lay the foundation for identifying the targets that affect the ratio of four-seed pod in soybean.

Keywords: bulked segregant RNA sequencing; differentially expressed gene; four-seed pod; gene regulatory pathway; soybean.