Agronomy and Horticulture Department



Brian M. Waters

Date of this Version



Waters BM, Amundsen K and Graef G (2018) Gene Expression Profiling of Iron Deficiency Chlorosis Sensitive and Tolerant Soybean Indicates Key Roles for Phenylpropanoids under Alkalinity Stress. Front. Plant Sci. 9:10. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.00010


Open Access.


Alkaline soils comprise 30% of the earth and have low plant-available iron (Fe) concentration, and can cause iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC). IDC causes soybean yield losses of $260 million annually. However, it is not known whether molecular responses to IDC are equivalent to responses to low iron supply. IDC tolerant and sensitive soybean lines provide a contrast to identify specific factors associated with IDC.We used RNA-seq to compare gene expression under combinations of normal pH (5.7) or alkaline pH (7.7, imposed by 2.5mM bicarbonate, or pH 8.2 imposed by 5mM bicarbonate) and normal (25μM) or low (1μM) iron conditions from roots of these lines. Thus, we were able to treat pH and Fe supply as separate variables. We also noted differential gene expression between IDC sensitive and tolerant genotypes in each condition. Classical iron uptake genes, including ferric-chelate reductase (FCR) and ferrous transporters, were upregulated by both Fe deficiency and alkaline stress, however, their gene products did not function well at alkaline pH. In addition, genes in the phenylpropanoid synthesis pathway were upregulated in both alkaline and low Fe conditions. These genes lead to the production of fluorescent root exudate (FluRE) compounds, such as coumarins. Fluorescence of nutrient solution increased with alkaline treatment, and was higher in the IDC tolerant line. Some of these genes also localized to previously identified QTL regions associated with IDC. We hypothesize that FluRE become essential at alkaline pH where the classical iron uptake system does not function well. This work could result in new strategies to screen for IDC tolerance, and provide breeding targets to improve crop alkaline stress tolerance.