Physiological and transcriptomic responses in the seed coat of field-grown soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) to abiotic stress

Courtney P. Leisner, Craig R. Yendrek, Elizabeth A. Ainsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Understanding how intensification of abiotic stress due to global climate change affects crop yields is important for continued agricultural productivity. Coupling genomic technologies with physiological crop responses in a dynamic field environment is an effective approach to dissect the mechanisms underpinning crop responses to abiotic stress. Soybean (Glycine max L. Merr. cv. Pioneer 93B15) was grown in natural production environments with projected changes to environmental conditions predicted for the end of the century, including decreased precipitation, increased tropospheric ozone concentrations ([O3]), or increased temperature. Results: All three environmental stresses significantly decreased leaf-level photosynthesis and stomatal conductance, leading to significant losses in seed yield. This was driven by a significant decrease in the number of pods per node for all abiotic stress treatments. To understand the underlying transcriptomic response involved in the yield response to environmental stress, RNA-Sequencing analysis was performed on the soybean seed coat, a tissue that plays an essential role in regulating carbon and nitrogen transport to developing seeds. Gene expression analysis revealed 49, 148 and 1,576 differentially expressed genes in the soybean seed coat in response to drought, elevated [O3] and elevated temperature, respectively. Conclusions: Elevated [O3] and drought did not elicit substantive transcriptional changes in the soybean seed coat. However, this may be due to the timing of sampling and does not preclude impacts of those stresses on different tissues or different stages in seed coat development. Expression of genes involved in DNA replication and metabolic processes were enriched in the seed coat under high temperate stress, suggesting that the timing of events that are important for cell division and proper seed development were altered in a stressful growth environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number242
JournalBMC Plant Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 12 2017


  • Climate change
  • DNA replication
  • Glycine max
  • Seed coat
  • Sink strength
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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