Transcriptome-Enabled Network Inference Revealed the GmCOL1 Feed-Forward Loop and Its Roles in Photoperiodic Flowering of Soybean

Faqiang Wu, Xiaohan Kang, Minglei Wang, Waseem Haider, William B. Price, Bruce Hajek, Yoshie Hanzawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Photoperiodic flowering, a plant response to seasonal photoperiod changes in the control of reproductive transition, is an important agronomic trait that has been a central target of crop domestication and modern breeding programs. However, our understanding about the molecular mechanisms of photoperiodic flowering regulation in crop species is lagging behind. To better understand the regulatory gene networks controlling photoperiodic flowering of soybeans, we elucidated global gene expression patterns under different photoperiod regimes using the near isogenic lines (NILs) of maturity loci (E loci). Transcriptome signatures identified the unique roles of the E loci in photoperiodic flowering and a set of genes controlled by these loci. To elucidate the regulatory gene networks underlying photoperiodic flowering regulation, we developed the network inference algorithmic package CausNet that integrates sparse linear regression and Granger causality heuristics, with Gaussian approximation of bootstrapping to provide reliability scores for predicted regulatory interactions. Using the transcriptome data, CausNet inferred regulatory interactions among soybean flowering genes. Published reports in the literature provided empirical verification for several of CausNet's inferred regulatory interactions. We further confirmed the inferred regulatory roles of the flowering suppressors GmCOL1a and GmCOL1b using GmCOL1 RNAi transgenic soybean plants. Combinations of the alleles of GmCOL1 and the major maturity locus E1 demonstrated positive interaction between these genes, leading to enhanced suppression of flowering transition. Our work provides novel insights and testable hypotheses in the complex molecular mechanisms of photoperiodic flowering control in soybean and lays a framework for de novo prediction of biological networks controlling important agronomic traits in crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1221
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Nov 8 2019


  • Glycine max
  • feedforward loop
  • network inference
  • photoperiodic flowering
  • transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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