Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 53, Issue 6, pp 733-743

First online:

Isoflavonoid biosynthesis and accumulation in developing soybean seeds

  • Sangeeta DhaubhadelAffiliated withAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • , Brian D. McGarveyAffiliated withAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • , Ruthanne WilliamsAffiliated withAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • , Mark GijzenAffiliated withAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada Email author 

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Isoflavonoids are biologically active natural products that accumulate in soybean seeds during development. The amount of isoflavonoids present in soybean seed is variable, depending on genetic and environmental factors that are not fully understood. Experiments were conducted to determine whether isoflavonoids are synthesized within seed tissues during development, or made in other plant organs and transported to the seeds where they accumulate. An analysis of isoflavonoids by HPLC detected the compounds in all organs of soybean plant, but the amount of isoflavonoids present varied depending on the tissue and developmental stage. The greatest concentrations were found in mature seeds and leaves. The 2-hydroxyisoflavanone synthase genes IFS1 and IFS2 were studied to determine their pattern of expression in different tissues and developmental stages. The highest level of expression of IFS1 was observed in the root and seed coat, while IFS2 was most highly expressed in embryos and pods, and in elicitor-treated or pathogen-challenged tissues. Incorporation of radiolabel into isoflavonoids was observed when developing embryos and other plant organs were fed with [14C]phenylalanine. Embryos excised from developing soybean seeds also accumulated isoflavonoids from a synthetic medium. A maternal effect on seed isoflavonoid content was noted in reciprocal crosses between soybean cultivars that differ in seed isoflavonoids. From these results, we propose that developing soybean embryos have an ability to synthesize isoflavonoids de novo, but that transport from maternal tissues may in part contribute to the accumulation of these natural products in the seed.

F1 hybrids Glycine max isoflavonoid inheritance phenylpropanoid secondary metabolism seed development