Chalcone synthase mRNA and activity are reduced in yellow soybean seed coats with dominant I alleles

C S Wang, J J Todd, L O Vodkin
Plant Physiology 1994, 105 (2): 739-48
The seed of all wild Glycine accessions have black or brown pigments because of the homozygous recessive i allele in combination with alleles at the R and T loci. In contrast, nearly all commercial soybean (Glycine max) varieties are yellow due to the presence of a dominant allele of the I locus (either I or i) that inhibits pigmentation in the seed coats. Spontaneous mutations to the recessive i allele occur in these varieties and result in pigmented seed coats. We have isolated a clone for a soybean dihydroflavonol reductase (DFR) gene using polymerase chain reaction. We examined expression of DFR and two other genes of the flavonoid pathway during soybean seed coat development in a series of near-isogenic isolines that vary in pigmentation as specified by combinations of alleles of the I, R, and T loci. The expression of phenylalanine ammonia-lyase and DFR mRNAs was similar in all of the gene combinations at each stage of seed coat development. In contrast, chalcone synthase (CHS) mRNA was barely detectable at all stages of development in seed coats that carry the dominant I allele that results in yellow seed coats. CHS activity in yellow seed coats (I) was also 7- to 10-fold less than in the pigmented seed coats that have the homozygous recessive i allele. It appears that the dominant I allele results in reduction of CHS mRNA, leading to reduction of CHS activity as the basis for inhibition of anthocyanin and proanthocyanin synthesis in soybean seed coats. A further connection between CHS and the I locus is indicated by the occurrence of multiple restriction site polymorphisms in genomic DNA blots of the CHS gene family in near-isogenic lines containing alleles of the I locus.

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