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BMC Plant Biology



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Background: Iron (Fe) is an essential micronutrient for plant growth and development. Iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC), caused by calcareous soils or high soil pH, can limit iron availability, negatively affecting soybean (Glycine max) yield. This study leverages genome-wide association study (GWAS) and a genome-wide epistatic study (GWES) with previous gene expression studies to identify regions of the soybean genome important in iron deficiency tolerance.

Results: A GWAS and a GWES were performed using 460 diverse soybean PI lines from 27 countries, in field and hydroponic iron stress conditions, using more than 36,000 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. Combining this approach with available RNA-sequencing data identified significant markers, genomic regions, and novel genes associated with or responding to iron deficiency. Sixty-nine genomic regions associated with IDC tolerance were identified across 19 chromosomes via the GWAS, including the major-effect quantitative trait locus (QTL) on chromosome Gm03. Cluster analysis of significant SNPs in this region deconstructed this historically prominent QTL into four distinct linkage blocks, enabling the identification of multiple candidate genes for iron chlorosis tolerance. The complementary GWES identified SNPs in this region interacting with nine other genomic regions, providing the first evidence of epistatic interactions impacting iron deficiency tolerance.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that integrating cutting edge genome wide association (GWA), genome wide epistasis (GWE), and gene expression studies is a powerful strategy to identify novel iron tolerance QTL and candidate loci from diverse germplasm. Crops, unlike model species, have undergone selection for thousands of years, constraining and/or enhancing stress responses. Leveraging genomics-enabled approaches to study these adaptations is essential for future crop improvement.


This article is published as Assefa, Teshale, Jiaoping Zhang, R. V. Chowda-Reddy, Adrienne N. Moran Lauter, Arti Singh, Jamie A. O’Rourke, Michelle A. Graham, and Asheesh K. Singh. "Deconstructing the genetic architecture of iron deficiency chlorosis in soybean using genome-wide approaches." BMC Plant Biology 20 (2020): 42. doi: 10.1186/s12870-020-2237-5.


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