Tiny Tool Analyzes Soybean Genes Faster

Tool allows researchers to make soybeans more productive and resistant to pests

Published on: Feb 19, 2014

A new USDA-developed tool may help researchers identify soybean genes that will make soybean plants more resistant to diseases and pests and more productive, the agency's Agricultural Research Service says.

Scientists are constantly searching for genes to breed into soybeans that improve on disease resistance, yields, drought tolerance and other important characteristics, and ARS estimates that the tool could expedite this process; using the new tool, scientists can collect genetic information in three days that previously took weeks to gather.

Called the SoySNP50K iSelect SNP BeadChip, the tool is a glass chip about 3 inches long with an etched surface that holds thousands of DNA markers. The markers can be used to characterize the genomes of large numbers of soybean plants.

ADDED RESISTANCE: Researchers hope the new tool will expedite data collection on soybean genes.
ADDED RESISTANCE: Researchers hope the new tool will expedite data collection on soybean genes.

It was developed by ARS scientists Perry Cregan, Qijian Song and Charles Quigley at the Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.

Related: Billion-Dollar Soybean Gene Strengthened

To create it, the researchers analyzed and compared the DNA of six cultivated and two wild soybean plants to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms, a commonly used type of molecular marker. They compared SNPs from the eight soybean plants with sequences of a well-known cultivated variety and came up with thousands of gene markers to use as signposts when comparing genes of different soybean plants.

USEFUL GADGET: Tool allows researchers to make soybeans more productive and resistant to pests
USEFUL GADGET: Tool allows researchers to make soybeans more productive and resistant to pests

The researchers have used the chip to profile 96 wild and 96 cultivated soybean varieties by comparing SNP alleles, or variant forms, at each of their 52,000 positions on the soybean genome, as registered on the chip. They identified regions of the genome that played a key role in the plant's domestication.

Their results were published in PLOS One.

The researchers also used the chip to analyze the 18,484 cultivated soybean accessions and 1,168 wild soybean accessions in the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection at Urbana, Ill., and submitted the data to the USDA-ARS soybean genetics and genomics database so it can be accessed by breeders and geneticists.