Genome Sequence of Soybean Released

The Science

Soybean is one of the most important agricultural crops in the world, providing substantial amounts of both protein and oil for foods, and also serving as a significant resource for producing biodiesel fuel. In the January 14, 2010, issue of Nature, researchers at the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) report the complete genome sequence of soybean. Over 46,000 protein-coding genes were identified in the billion base pair genome, with nearly 75% of these genes present in multiple copies. Research that will be enabled using the soybean genome is expect to have a significant impact not only on agriculture but also on efforts to improve yields of soybean oil for conversion into diesel fuels. The newly published genomic information will serve as the reference with which to study all beans and other legumes, offering insights into important traits such as nitrogen fixation.

The Impact

Researchers sequenced the 1.1-gigabase genome by a whole-genome shotgun approach and integrated it with physical and high-density genetic maps to create a chromosome-scale draft sequence assembly. The soybean genome is the largest whole-genome shotgun-sequenced plant genome so far and compares favourably to all other high-quality draft whole-genome shotgun-sequenced plant genomes.

A striking feature of the soybean genome is that 57% of the genomic sequence occurs in repeat-rich, low-recombination heterochromatic regions surrounding the centromeres. About 78% of the predicted genes occur in chromosome ends, which comprise less than one-half of the genome but account for nearly all of the genetic recombination. Genome duplications occurred at approximately 59 and 13 million years ago, resulting in a highly duplicated genome with nearly 75% of the genes present in multiple copies. The two duplication events were followed by gene diversification and loss, and numerous chromosome rearrangements. An accurate soybean genome sequence will facilitate the identification of the genetic basis of many soybean traits, and accelerate the creation of improved soybean varieties.

BER Program Manager

Kari Perez

U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Biological Systems Science Division
[email protected]


Schmutz, J., S. B. Cannon, J. Schlueter, J. Ma, D. Hyten, Q. Song, T. Mitros, W. Nelson, G. D. May, N. Gill, M. Peto, D. Goodstein, J. J. Thelen, J. Cheng, T. Sakurai, T. Umezawa, J. Du, M. Bhattacharyya, D. Sandhu, D. Grant, T. Joshi, M. Libault, X.-C. Zhang, M. Futrell-Griggs, B. Abernathy, U. Hellsten, K. Berry, J. Grimwood, R. A. Wing, P. Cregan, G. Stacey, J. Specht, D. Rokhsar, R. C. Shoemaker, and S. A. Jackson. 2010. “Genome Sequence of the Paleopolyploid Soybean (Glycine max, (L.) Merr.).,” Nature 463, 178–83. DOI:10.1038/nature08670.