Genetic variation of γ-tocopherol methyltransferase gene contributes to elevated α-tocopherol content in soybean seeds
Laboratory of Plant Genetics and Evolution, Graduate School of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Kita 9 Nishi 9 Sapporo 060-8589, Hokkaido, Japan
BMC Plant Biology 2011, 11:152 doi:10.1186/1471-2229-11-152Published: 7 November 2011
Improvement of α-tocopherol content is an important breeding aim to increase the nutritional value of crops. Several efforts have been conducted to improve the α-tocopherol content in soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] through transgenic technology by overexpressing genes related to α-tocopherol biosynthesis or through changes to crop management practices. Varieties with high α-tocopherol content have been identified in soybean germplasms. The heritability of this trait has been characterized in a cross between high α-tocopherol variety Keszthelyi Aproszemu Sarga (KAS) and low α-tocopherol variety Ichihime. In this study, the genetic mechanism of the high α-tocopherol content trait of KAS was elucidated.
Through QTL analysis and fine mapping in populations from a cross between KAS and a Japanese variety Ichihime, we identified γ-TMT3, which encodes γ-tocopherol methyltransferase, as a candidate gene responsible for high α-tocopherol concentration in KAS. Several nucleotide polymorphisms including two nonsynonymous mutations were found in the coding region of γ-TMT3 between Ichihime and KAS, but none of which was responsible for the difference in α-tocopherol concentration. Therefore, we focused on transcriptional regulation of γ-TMT3 in developing seeds and leaves. An F5 line that was heterozygous for the region containing γ-TMT3 was self-pollinated. From among the progeny, plants that were homozygous at the γ-TMT3 locus were chosen for further evaluation. The expression level of γ-TMT3 was higher both in developing seeds and leaves of plants homozygous for the γ-TMT3 allele from KAS. The higher expression level was closely correlated with high α-tocopherol content in developing seeds. We generated transgenic Arabidopsis plants harboring GUS gene under the control of γ-TMT3 promoter from KAS or Ichihime. The GUS activity assay showed that the activity of γ-TMT3 promoter from KAS was higher than that of Ichihime.
The genetic variation in γ-TMT3, which plays a major role in determining α-tocopherol concentration, provides significant information about the regulation of tocopherol biosynthesis in soybean seeds. This knowledge will help breeding programs to develop new soybean varieties with high α-tocopherol content.