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BMC Biotechnol. 2016 May 12;16(1):41. doi: 10.1186/s12896-016-0271-z.

Genomic variation and DNA repair associated with soybean transgenesis: a comparison to cultivars and mutagenized plants.

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Department of Agronomy & Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, 411 Borlaug Hall, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.
Department of Agronomy & Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, 411 Borlaug Hall, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.



The safety of mutagenized and genetically transformed plants remains a subject of scrutiny. Data gathered and communicated on the phenotypic and molecular variation induced by gene transfer technologies will provide a scientific-based means to rationally address such concerns. In this study, genomic structural variation (e.g. large deletions and duplications) and single nucleotide polymorphism rates were assessed among a sample of soybean cultivars, fast neutron-derived mutants, and five genetically transformed plants developed through Agrobacterium based transformation methods.


On average, the number of genes affected by structural variations in transgenic plants was one order of magnitude less than that of fast neutron mutants and two orders of magnitude less than the rates observed between cultivars. Structural variants in transgenic plants, while rare, occurred adjacent to the transgenes, and at unlinked loci on different chromosomes. DNA repair junctions at both transgenic and unlinked sites were consistent with sequence microhomology across breakpoints. The single nucleotide substitution rates were modest in both fast neutron and transformed plants, exhibiting fewer than 100 substitutions genome-wide, while inter-cultivar comparisons identified over one-million single nucleotide polymorphisms.


Overall, these patterns provide a fresh perspective on the genomic variation associated with high-energy induced mutagenesis and genetically transformed plants. The genetic transformation process infrequently results in novel genetic variation and these rare events are analogous to genetic variants occurring spontaneously, already present in the existing germplasm, or induced through other types of mutagenesis. It remains unclear how broadly these results can be applied to other crops or transformation methods.


Biotechnology; Genetic engineering; Somaclonal variation; Soybean; Structural variation; Transgenic crops

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