Background: The soybean (Glycine max) cotyledon is a specialized tissue whose main function is to serve as a nutrient reserve that supplies the needs of the young plant throughout seedling development. During this process the cotyledons experience a functional transition to a mainly photosynthetic tissue. To identify at the genetic level the specific active elements that participate in the natural transition of the cotyledon from storage to photosynthetic activity, we studied the transcript abundance profile at different time points using a new soybean oligonucleotide chip containing 19,200 probes (70-mer long). Results: After normalization and statistical analysis we determined that 3,594 genes presented a statistically significant altered expression in relation to the imbibed seed in at least one of the time points defined for the study. Detailed analysis of this data identified individual, specific elements of the glyoxylate pathway that play a fundamental role during the functional transition of the cotyledon from nutrient storage to photosynthesis. The dynamics between glyoxysomes and peroxisomes is evident during these series of events. We also identified several other genes whose products could participate co-ordinately throughout the functional transition and the associated mechanisms of control and regulation and we described multiple unknown genetic elements that by association have the potential to make a major contribution to this biological process. Conclusion: We demonstrate that the global transcript profile of the soybean cotyledon during seedling development is extremely active, highly regulated and dynamic. We defined the expression profiles of individual gene family members, enzymatic isoforms and protein subunits and classified them accordingly to their involvement in different functional activities relevant to seedling development and the cotyledonary functional transition in soybean, especially the ones associated with the glyoxylate cycle. Our data suggests that in the soybean cotyledon a very complex and synchronized system of control and regulation of several metabolic pathways is essential to carry out the necessary functions during this developmental process.
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