- Research article
- Open Access
Gene amplification of the Hps locus in Glycine max
© Gijzen et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2006
Received: 14 October 2005
Accepted: 14 March 2006
Published: 14 March 2006
Hydrophobic protein from soybean (HPS) is an 8 kD cysteine-rich polypeptide that causes asthma in persons allergic to soybean dust. HPS is synthesized in the pod endocarp and deposited on the seed surface during development. Past evidence suggests that the protein may mediate the adherence or dehiscence of endocarp tissues during maturation and affect the lustre, or glossiness of the seed surface.
A comparison of soybean germplasm by genomic DNA blot hybridization shows that the copy number and structure of the Hps locus is polymorphic among soybean cultivars and related species. Changes in Hps gene copy number were also detected by comparative genomic DNA hybridization using cDNA microarrays. The Hps copy number polymorphisms co-segregated with seed lustre phenotype and HPS surface protein in a cross between dull- and shiny-seeded soybeans. In soybean cultivar Harosoy 63, a minimum of 27 ± 5 copies of the Hps gene were estimated to be present in each haploid genome. The isolation and analysis of genomic clones indicates that the core Hps locus is comprised of a tandem array of reiterated units, with each 8.6 kb unit containing a single HPS open reading frame.
This study shows that polymorphisms at the Hps locus arise from changes in the gene copy number via gene amplification. We present a model whereby Hps copy number modulates protein expression levels and seed lustre, and we suggest that gene amplification may result from selection pressures imposed on crop plants.
The lustre or glossiness of soybean seeds is a variable trait that is controlled by genetic and environmental factors [1, 2]. The amount of endocarp adhering to the seed surface is the primary determinant of lustre [3, 4]. The presence of adhering endocarp tissues also lightens the colour of the seed and produces soybeans with a paler or more whitish appearance. This is equally true for pigmented soybeans as for yellow or buff coloured soybeans that lack seed coat pigmentation. A dense or contiguous covering of the honeycomb-like endocarp tissue produces a bloom phenotype, whereas a fragmented or patchy covering of endocarp produces a dull phenotype . Shiny phenotypes occur when seeds are mostly free of endocarp deposits on the surface. In a cross between dull- and shiny-seeded phenotypes, dull-seededness segregates as a single dominant gene B . Additional genes that influence seed lustre have also been proposed [1, 6, 7].
It is not known what molecules control the adherence of endocarp to the seed surface, but one likely factor is an 8 kDa cysteine-rich protein named HPS (hydrophobic protein from soybean). Past studies indicate that HPS is synthesized in the endocarp and deposited on the seed surface during development . The presence of HPS on the seed surface is a trait that cosegregates with the seed lustre determinant B . These facts along with other evidence suggest that HPS can mediate the attachment of endocarp tissues to the seed surface and thereby affect the seed lustre.
The HPS protein has also been named Gly m 1 because it is the major allergen that causes asthma in persons allergic to soybean dust . Epidemic outbreaks of asthma caused by the presence of soybean dust have been documented in many cities . The occurrence of relatively large amounts of HPS on the seed surface results in the release of aerosols containing the protein during seed handling. Airborne HPS can be detected in ports where soybeans are transferred and even in regions where soybeans are grown, during the harvesting season [10, 11].
Here we demonstrate that genetic polymorphisms that affect the copy number of the Hps gene are prevalent in soybean germplasm. We show that Hps genes are clustered in a tandem array at a single genetic locus, and we suggest that a process of gene amplification has led to this structural arrangement. Finally, we propose that changes in Hps gene copy number modulate HPS protein expression levels and seed lustre phenotypes.
The Hpsgene structure is polymorphic among soybean cultivars
Multiple copies of Hpsare present at a single genetic locus
A summary genomic DNA hybridizations to cDNA microarrays.
Cy3 labelled DNA
Cy5 labelled DNA
Normalized hybridization ratios (OX281:Mukden or Harosoy 63:Sooty)
All spots (mean ± stdev)
1.101 ± 0.594
1.011 ± 0.300
1.055 ± 0.516
The absolute hybridization values, and therefore the signal-to-noise ratios, were low compared to microarrays that were conventionally probed with cDNA derived from mRNA samples. Nonetheless, the normalized ratios for the ~18,000 genes on the array were tightly clustered around unity (~1), as expected, but the cDNA on the array encoding HPS displayed exceptional hybridization ratios in these experiments in every case. Thus, in each experiment that compared hybridization ratios of OX281:Mukden or of Harosoy 63:Sooty, the cDNA encoding HPS always displayed a hybridization ratio >2, ranging from 4.2 to 6.4. These results indicate that the Hps copy number differences detected by conventional Southern analysis are also detectable by comparative genomic DNA hybridization to cDNA microarrays.
Analysis of genomic clones indicate a tandem array of Hpsgenes
A summary of Hps genomic clones.
GenBank accession number
Restriction enzyme fragment
Probe used to isolate clone1
Related gene, contains ORF similar to HPS
Contains complete ORF of HPS
Contains complete ORF of HPS
Contains partial ORF of HPS
HPS intergenic or flanking region
HPS intergenic or flanking region
Other copies of Hps are also present in the soybean genome, as evidenced by the additional hybridizing bands on the DNA blots and by the genomic clones that do not exactly match the repetitive pattern. There are closely related genes, such as HPS2.1, that may correspond to paralogue pair-mates that arose from whole genome duplication, since soybean is considered an ancient tetraploid. Additional Hps genomic copies may also represent flanking regions or sequence variations occurring within the tandem array. For example, clones HPS1.5 (DQ208939) and HPS1.6 (DQ208940) share 97.5% sequence identity over their 8 kb length, but HPS1.5 has a single Hind III site whereas HPS1.6 possess two Hind III sites. These two copies of Hps will produce different patterns of hybridization after Hind III digestion. Although both patterns appear to be visible in the DNA blots, the smaller sized fragments produce much stronger signals, indicating that clone HPS1.6 with two Hind III sites better represents the majority of copies of Hps within the genome.
Past studies have pointed to a role for HPS in the control of seed lustre in soybean cultivars [2, 5]. Now, we have conducted an extensive study of Hps copy number polymorphisms in a range of soybean lines and related legume species. The structure of the Hps gene was investigated by isolating and characterizing clones from the genomic region. The results have led us to propose a model to account for variation of seed lustre controlled by Hps.
From the analysis of DNA blot hybridizations of various soybean cultivars, lines, and related species, we can conclude that Hps copy number polymorphisms are common in soybean. The Hps locus appears to have evolved and diversified in soybean (Glycine max) in comparison to its wild ancestor (Glycine soja). Hybridization patterns show that the Hps sequence itself is also specific to these two species, a result that is supported by searches of DNA and protein sequences in GenBank (not shown). HPS shows similarities to so-called bi-modular proteins containing plant lipid transfer protein (LTP) domains . The plant LTPs constitute a large group of related proteins derived from the prolamin super-family. Our results show that HPS has diverged substantially from other LTPs and that there are no close counterparts in other species.
All Glycine max lines that were tested contained multiple copies of the Hps gene, but there were large differences in the number of copies of Hps depending on the cultivar examined. We observed a good correlation between the apparent Hps copy number, as judged by hybridization intensity on DNA blots, and seed lustre. This is especially true for dull- and shiny-seeded phenotypes and for intermediates between these types. This relationship was not apparent for bloom phenotypes, an exception that has been noted in past studies that correlated the occurrence of HPS protein to seed lustre [2, 5]. Two bloom phenotypes analyzed, Clark B1 and Sooty, produced contrasting patterns of Hps hybridization. This can be accounted for by tracing the pedigree of Clark B1. The cv Clark is a dull phenotype with a high-copy Hps RFLP pattern, whereas Sooty is a bloom phenotype with a low-copy RFLP pattern. Clark B1 is an isoline derived from a cross between Clark and Sooty, with Clark as the recurrent parent. This indicates that the bloom phenotype (B1) is controlled by genes that are independent of B and Hps.
Multiple copies of Hps could be detected in a number of different soybean cultivars and lines by conventional DNA blot hybridizations. Multiple genomic copies of Hps were also detected by real-time PCR analysis (not shown). Copy number estimates from real-time PCR analysis were more variable and always exceeded estimates determined by conventional hybridizations. Each type of analysis, real-time PCR and conventional hybridization, were performed many times and, overall, we have greater confidence in the results from conventional hybridizations. By this method, the soybean cv Harosoy 63 was estimated to posses 27 ± 5 copies of Hps per haploid genome.
Variation in Hps copy number among different soybean lines could also be detected by comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) to cDNA microarrays. Although substantial differences in Hps copy number were detected by CGH, quantifying the number of Hps copies in a particular genome was not possible since hybridization intensities were not calibrated. Nonetheless, we have shown that CGH may be used to search for copy number polymorphisms in plant genomes. It is a potentially powerful application of microarrays that may be under-appreciated. For example, genomic DNA from plant lines that differ in a particular trait of interest could be screened using microarrays to identify genes that show differences in copy number. These genes could be tested as candidates for the trait of interest.
From our analysis of Hps gene structure, at least three pieces of evidence suggest that most of the Hps copies share a high degree of sequence identity. First, the hybridization patterns produced upon digestion of genomic DNA with a variety of enzymes indicate that restriction enzyme sites have been conserved in most of the gene copies. Secondly, analysis of Hps genomic clones indicates that independent clones with nearly identical sequences correspond to separate copies of Hps genes. Finally, expressed sequence tags encoding Hps transcripts do not show a high degree of sequence polymorphism [14, 15]. Thus, it appears that most copies of the Hps gene have not diverged in sequence. This indicates that duplication and expansion of this gene cluster has been a recent event, or that sequence identity is maintained by frequent recombination events occurring within the cluster. Naturally, it would be desirable to clone a contiguous region of genomic DNA encompassing the entire tandem array of Hps genes. We attempted to do this by screening bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) libraries but were unsuccessful. It is known that tandem arrays may be intractable to cloning and propagation , perhaps explaining this result.
In the cross between soybean lines OX281 and Mukden, Hps copy number polymorphisms cosegregated with seed lustre phenotype B and associated genetic markers. This result was expected because past studies have shown that B cosegregates with the presence of HPS protein on the seed surface, and with a DNA marker derived from the Hps cDNA sequence . The multiple copies of Hps that are present in OX281 segregate in a Mendelian fashion, indicating that they occur at a single genetic locus and are not distributed throughout the genome. The analysis and assembly of Hps genomic clones substantiates the inheritance results, since the clones could be aligned to produce a reiterated array of Hps genes. All of the evidence therefore points to a tandem array of Hps genes occurring in a structural configuration arising from gene amplification.
Gene amplification occurs when multiple identical copies of a DNA sequence are duplicated within the genome. It may be an adaptive mechanism that results from selective pressure on the genome, as illustrated by drug, insecticide, or herbicide resistance observed in cell lines or in populations [17–19]. Amplification typically leads to a tandem array of reiterated units, such as that observed for genes encoding rRNA, snRNA, and histones . Unlike genes that undergo duplication and divergence , individual units within a tandem array are under constraint and maintain a high-degree of sequence identity. Structural genes occurring in tandem arrays that are stable over generations, such as rDNAs, are considered a mechanism to accommodate cellular demand for large amounts of identical gene product. Genetic components embedded within tandem arrays that act to stabilize or promote gene amplification have been proposed, such as AT-rich tracts, autonomously replicating sequence (ARS) elements, and matrix attachment regions (MAR) . These cis-acting elements have even been used to modulate gene copy number and expression levels of heterologous genes in transformed cells .
Thus, the features of the Hps locus appear to be consistent with characteristics associated with other amplified genes, from plants and animals. Plant genomes are known to have many large gene families and duplicated genes occurring in tandem arrays are also fairly common . One of the largest tandem arrays characterized in plants corresponds to a gene cluster of 22 copies encoding alpha zeins in Zea mays , but there are few other examples of extensive arrays of nearly identical structural genes at one locus. The Hps locus is also exceptional because of the allelic variation in copy number of this gene cluster among different soybean cultivars and lines. Although it is not clear whether all copies of Hps are functionally expressed and transcribed, previous work has shown that transcripts encoding Hps are far more abundant in the endocarp of soybean lines with many genomic copies of Hps than in lines with few copies .
The results from this study together with past work [2, 5] can be integrated into a model, whereby Hps genomic copy number operates as a genetic rheostat to control transcriptional and translational flux and the resulting quantity of HPS protein synthesized by the endocarp. Variation in HPS protein levels expressed in the endocarp could then account for the variable pattern of attachment of this tissue to the seed surface, and the resulting seed lustre phenotypes. Alternative explanations cannot be excluded, but the evidence so far tends to favour this gene amplification-based hypothesis. What kind of selection pressure could cause this to occur? The size, shape, colour, and general appearance of the seed are traits that are under intense selective pressure for crop plants, especially so for legumes. Even today certain markets may favour dull- or shiny-seeded soybeans for particular uses, so it is not unreasonable to suppose that selection for various lustre phenotypes has accompanied the development and expansion of this crop since its domestication some 3,000 years ago .
This study demonstrates that copy number polymorphisms of the Hps gene are common in soybean cultivars and lines. In some cultivars, in excess of 27 ± 5 copies of Hps occur in a tandem array at a single locus. From these results, together with past studies on the occurrence and inheritance of the HPS protein, we developed a model to account for variation in seed lustre controlled by the B locus. The model proposes that Hps copy number changes provide a mechanism to modulate HPS protein levels expressed in the pod endocarp. Variable HPS expression in the endocarp likewise generates variation in the quantity and pattern of attachment of the endocarp to the seed surface, thereby affecting the seed lustre. Experiments in the future can be designed to test this model, and to investigate additional genetic loci controlling seed lustre that are independent of B and Hps.
Seeds of soybean (Glycine max) and Lotus japonicus were from collections at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and were provided by Dr. Vaino Poysa and Dr. Krzysztof Szczyglowski, respectively. Seeds of Glycine soja and Glycine tabacina were from the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection. Seeds of Glycine canescens, Glycine curvata, and Glycine tomentella were from the Australian National Herbarium. Plants were grown in field plots outdoors or in glass enclosed greenhouses. The cross of soybean line OX281 to cv Mukden and the generation of F3 families has been described . Seed lustre was determined by visual inspection.
Extraction and analysis of DNA samples
Soybean genomic DNA was purified from frozen tissues using a modified CTAB (hexadecyltrimethyl ammonium bromide) method . Restriction enzyme digestion, electrophoretic separation on agarose gels, and blotting to Nylon membranes followed standard protocols . Agarose gels were stained with ethiduim bromide and examined prior to transfer to ensure equal DNA loading and digestion. To prepare probes, the Hps cDNA was excised by restriction enzyme digestion from a plasmid clone . Other probes were prepared by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using cloned genomic fragments from soybean as DNA template (primer sequences and PCR conditions are available upon request). The DNA probes were isolated by excision from agarose electrophoresis gels, purified, and labelled with 32P dCTP using a random primer labelling system (RediprimeII, Amersham Biosciences, Baie d'Urfé, Canada). Unincorporated 32P dCTP was removed by gel filtration (Microspin S-200, Amersham Biosciences, Baie d'Urfé, Canada). Probes were denatured by heating to 95°C for 10 min. Hybridization was carried out at 65°C for 16 h in 0.25 mM Na2HPO4, pH 7.2, 7% (w/v) SDS, 1% BSA, and 1 mm EDTA. Filters were then washed four times for 15 min each at 22°C in high stringency wash solution (20 mM Na2HPO4, pH 7.2, 1% [w/v] SDS, and 1 mM EDTA), followed by three 15-min washes in the same solution at 68°C.
Microarray slides (soybean 18 K – A series) were purchased from Dr. Lila Vodkin, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL. The slides contain 18613 soybean cDNAs of low redundancy, sourced from a variety of tissues and organs . A total of six slides were hybridized in three separate experiments, using independent samples of genomic DNA for each experiment. Slides were prehybridized for 45 min in 5× SSC, 0.1% SDS and 1% BSA at 42°C, followed by two washes in 0.1× SSC at 22°C. The slides were dipped in water and dried by centrifugation. Genomic DNA purified from soybean tissues was digested with Dpn II and precipitated with ethanol prior to labelling with Cy3- or Cy5-dCTP (Amersham Biosciences, Baie d'Urfé, Canada) using published methods . Labelled DNA was purified by column chromatography, quantitated, and the amount of dye incorporation was determined . For hybridization mixtures, proportional amounts of Cy3- and Cy5-labelled DNA were dried by vacuum centrifugation, then re-dissolved and combined in a solution containing 22 ng uL-1 mouse COT-1 (Invitrogen, Rockville, MD), 4.5 ng uL-1 polyA DNA, 1× hybridization buffer (Amersham Biosciences, Baie d'Urfé, Canada), and 50% formamide (v/v). The hybridization solution (44 uL total volume) was denatured for 2 min at 100 °C, cooled for 30 min at 22°C, then applied to the prehybridized microarray slide. A 24 × 60 mm cover slip was placed over the slide and hybridization was carried out for 45 h in darkness, at 42°C. Post hybridization washes were as follows: one wash of 2× SSC and 0.1% SDS at 42°C for 5 min; two washes of 0.1× SSC and 0.1% SDS at 42°C for 2 min; and two washes of 0.1× SSC at 22°C for 1 min. Slides were dipped in water and dried under a stream of nitrogen gas prior to laser scanning (BioRad ChipReader with VersArray ChipReader v3.0 software, BioRad Corporation, Hercules, CA). Spot intensities were quantified and corrected for background signals (Array Vision v6.0 software, St. Catherines, ON, Canada), then values imported into GeneSpring v7.2 (Silicon Genetics, Redwood City, CA) and normalized by per spot, per chip, intensity dependant LOWESS. A dye swap was included in each experiment, and the final normalized hybridization ratios were averaged from separate values calculated for each slide. Data was MIAMI validated and deposited to the Gene Expression Omnibus  series GSE3810; samples GSM87407-GSM87412.
Isolation and sequencing of genomic clones encoding Hps
Methods for construction and screening of genomic DNA libraries of soybean cv Harosoy 63 have been described . Additional genomic libraries were prepared for this study, using commercially available λ-phage vectors and packaging extracts (Stratagene, La Jolla, CA), and by following the manufacture's instructions. Positive clones were plaque purified and sub-cloned into a plasmid vector (pBluescript, Strategene, La Jolla, CA) for sequence analysis. Automated sequencing of DNA was accomplished using dye-labelled terminators and fragments separated in acrylamide gels (model 377, Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA). Genomic clones were shotgun sequenced by random transposon insertion (GPS-1, New England Biolabs, Beverly, MA) to an average of 10-fold coverage, and gaps were closed by primer walking. Finished sequences were assembled and edited using a computer program (Lasergene, DNAStar, Inc., Madison, WI).
The authors thank: Dr. Vaino Poysa, Dr. Krzysztof Szczyglowski, the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection, and the Australian National Herbarium for providing seed samples; Dr. Lila Vodkin for soybean microarray slides; Ida van Grinsven and Sandra Millar for DNA sequencing; Aldona Gaidauskas-Scott for laboratory technical assistance; B. Patrick Chapman for bioinformatics support; David Carter for microarray spot quantitation; and the London Regional Genomics Centre for use of the microarray facility. This work was supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Crop Genomics Initiative, and by the Ontario Soybean Growers.
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