A soybean MADS-box protein modulates floral organ numbers, petal identity and sterility

Fang Huang, Guangli Xu, Yingjun Chi, Haicui Liu, Qian Xue, Tuanjie Zhao, Junyi Gai, Deyue Yu
BMC Plant Biology 2014, 14: 89

BACKGROUND: The MADS-box transcription factors play fundamental roles in reproductive developmental control. Although the roles of many plant MADS-box proteins have been extensively studied, there are almost no functional studies of them in soybean, an important protein and oil crop in the world. In addition, the MADS-box protein orthologs may have species-specific functions. Controlling male fertility is an important goal in plant hybrid breeding but is difficult in some crops like soybean. The morphological structure of soybean flowers prevents the cross-pollination. Understanding the molecular mechanisms for floral development will aid in engineering new sterile materials that could be applied in hybrid breeding programs in soybean.

RESULT: Through microarray analysis, a flower-enriched gene in soybean was selected and designated as GmMADS28. GmMADS28 belongs to AGL9/SEP subfamily of MADS-box proteins, localized in nucleus and showed specific expression patterns in floral meristems as well as stamen and petal primordia. Expression of GmMADS28 in the stamens and petals of a soybean mutant NJS-10Hfs whose stamens are converted into petals was higher than in those of wild-type plants. Constitutive expression of GmMADS28 in tobacco promoted early flowering and converted stamens and sepals to petals. Interestingly, transgenic plants increased the numbers of sepal, petal and stamen from five to six and exhibited male sterility due to the shortened and curly filaments and the failure of pollen release from the anthers. The ectopic expression of GmMADS28 was found to be sufficient to activate expression of tobacco homologs of SOC1, LEAFY, AGL8/FUL, and DEF. In addition, we observed the interactions of GmMADS28 with soybean homologs of SOC1, AP1, and AGL8/FUL proteins.

CONCLUSION: In this study, we observed the roles of GmMADS28 in the regulation of floral organ number and petal identity. Compared to other plant AGL9/SEP proteins, GmMADS28 specifically regulates floral organ number, filament length and pollen release. The sterility caused by the ectopic expression of GmMADS28 offers a promising way to genetically produce new sterile material that could potentially be applied in the hybrid breeding of crops like soybean.

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