Elevation of soybean seed oil content through selection for seed coat shininess


Many leguminous species have adapted their seed coat with a layer of powdery bloom that contains hazardous allergens and makes the seeds less visible, offering duel protection against potential predators1. Nevertheless, a shiny seed surface without bloom is desirable for human consumption and health, and is targeted for selection under domestication. Here we show that seed coat bloom in wild soybeans is mainly controlled by Bloom1 (B1), which encodes a transmembrane transporter-like protein for biosynthesis of the bloom in pod endocarp. The transition from the ‘bloom’ to ‘no-bloom’ phenotypes is associated with artificial selection of a nucleotide mutation that naturally occurred in the coding region of B1 during soybean domestication. Interestingly, this mutation not only ‘shined’ the seed surface, but also elevated seed oil content in domesticated soybeans. Such an elevation of oil content in seeds appears to be achieved through b1-modulated upregulation of oil biosynthesis in pods. This study shows pleiotropy as a mechanism underlying the domestication syndrome2, and may pave new strategies for development of soybean varieties with increased seed oil content and reduced seed dust.

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Fig. 1: Seed coat luster of G. max, G. soja and their progeny.
Fig. 2: Map-based cloning of the B1 locus.
Fig. 3: Pleiotropic effects of the B1 locus on seed oil content.
Fig. 4: Expression levels and interaction of four transcription factor genes regulating fatty acids biosynthesis in soybean.


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This work was mainly supported by soybean checkoff funds from the North Central Soybean Research Program and Indiana Soybean Alliance, and partially supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grant (2015-67013-22811) of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Republic of Korea Rural Development Administration (RDA) Research Program (Grant no. PJ0122112017), Taishan Scholarship and Purdue University AgSEED Program.

Author information

J.M. and R.L.N. conceived and designed the research; D.Z., L.S., S.L., W.W., Y.D., S.A.S., L.L., X.W. X.T. and Z.Z. performed the research; D.Z., L.S., S.L., W.W., Z.T., P.B., C.C., R.L.N. and J.M. analysed the data; J.M. wrote the manuscript with input from D.Z., W.W., S.A.S. and R.L.N.

Correspondence to Jianxin Ma.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1 & 2, Supplementary Tables 1–4.

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Supplementary Data 1

SNP genotyping data generated in this study.

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Zhang, D., Sun, L., Li, S. et al. Elevation of soybean seed oil content through selection for seed coat shininess. Nature Plants 4, 30–35 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-017-0084-7

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