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Open Access Research article

Genetic variation in four maturity genes affects photoperiod insensitivity and PHYA-regulated post-flowering responses of soybean

Meilan Xu1, Zeheng Xu3, Baohui Liu3, Fanjiang Kong3, Yasutaka Tsubokura2, Satoshi Watanabe2, Zhengjun Xia3, Kyuya Harada2, Akira Kanazawa1, Testuya Yamada1 and Jun Abe1*

Author Affiliations

1 Research Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 060-8589, Japan

2 National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305-8602, Japan

3 Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Harbin, 150040, China

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:91  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-91

Published: 25 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Absence of or low sensitivity to photoperiod is necessary for short-day crops, such as rice and soybean, to adapt to high latitudes. Photoperiod insensitivity in soybeans is controlled by two genetic systems and involves three important maturity genes: E1, a repressor for two soybean orthologs of Arabidopsis FLOWERING LOCUS T (GmFT2a and GmFT5a), and E3 and E4, which are phytochrome A genes. To elucidate the diverse mechanisms underlying photoperiod insensitivity in soybean, we assessed the genotypes of four maturity genes (E1 through E4) in early-flowering photoperiod-insensitive cultivars and their association with post-flowering responses.

Results

We found two novel dysfunctional alleles in accessions originally considered to have a dominant E3 allele according to known DNA markers. The E3 locus, together with E1 and E4, contained multiple dysfunctional alleles. We identified 15 multi-locus genotypes, which we subdivided into 6 genotypic groups by classifying their alleles by function. Of these, the e1-as/e3/E4 genotypic group required an additional novel gene (different from E1, E3, and E4) to condition photoperiod insensitivity. Despite their common pre-flowering photoperiod insensitivity, accessions with different multi-locus genotypes responded differently to the post-flowering photoperiod. Cultivars carrying E3 or E4 were sensitive to photoperiod for post-flowering characteristics, such as reproductive period and stem growth after flowering. The phytochrome A–regulated expression of the determinate growth habit gene Dt1, an ortholog of Arabidopsis TERMINAL FLOWER1, was involved in the persistence of the vegetative activity at the stem apical meristem of flower-induced plants under long-day conditions.

Conclusions

Diverse genetic mechanisms underlie photoperiod insensitivity in soybean. At least three multi-locus genotypes consisting of various allelic combinations at E1, E3, and E4 conferred pre-flowering photoperiod insensitivity to soybean cultivars but led to different responses to photoperiod during post-flowering vegetative and reproductive development. The phyA genes E3 and E4 are major controllers underlying not only pre-flowering but also post-flowering photoperiod responses. The current findings improve our understanding of genetic diversity in pre-flowering photoperiod insensitivity and mechanisms of post-flowering photoperiod responses in soybean.

Keywords:
Photoperiod; Soybean; Flowering; Determinate habit; Post-flowering; Genetic variation