The mitochondrial genome of soybean reveals complex genome structures and gene evolution at intercellular and phylogenetic levels.

Research paper by Shengxin S Chang, Yankun Y Wang, Jiangjie J Lu, Junyi J Gai, Jijie J Li, Pu P Chu, Rongzhan R Guan, Tuanjie T Zhao

Indexed on: 23 Feb '13Published on: 23 Feb '13Published in: PloS one


Determining mitochondrial genomes is important for elucidating vital activities of seed plants. Mitochondrial genomes are specific to each plant species because of their variable size, complex structures and patterns of gene losses and gains during evolution. This complexity has made research on the soybean mitochondrial genome difficult compared with its nuclear and chloroplast genomes. The present study helps to solve a 30-year mystery regarding the most complex mitochondrial genome structure, showing that pairwise rearrangements among the many large repeats may produce an enriched molecular pool of 760 circles in seed plants. The soybean mitochondrial genome harbors 58 genes of known function in addition to 52 predicted open reading frames of unknown function. The genome contains sequences of multiple identifiable origins, including 6.8 kb and 7.1 kb DNA fragments that have been transferred from the nuclear and chloroplast genomes, respectively, and some horizontal DNA transfers. The soybean mitochondrial genome has lost 16 genes, including nine protein-coding genes and seven tRNA genes; however, it has acquired five chloroplast-derived genes during evolution. Four tRNA genes, common among the three genomes, are derived from the chloroplast. Sizeable DNA transfers to the nucleus, with pericentromeric regions as hotspots, are observed, including DNA transfers of 125.0 kb and 151.6 kb identified unambiguously from the soybean mitochondrial and chloroplast genomes, respectively. The soybean nuclear genome has acquired five genes from its mitochondrial genome. These results provide biological insights into the mitochondrial genome of seed plants, and are especially helpful for deciphering vital activities in soybean.