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Nat Genet. 2017 May;49(5):773-779. doi: 10.1038/ng.3819. Epub 2017 Mar 20.

Natural variation at the soybean J locus improves adaptation to the tropics and enhances yield.

Lu S1,2, Zhao X1,2, Hu Y3,4, Liu S4,5, Nan H1, Li X1,4, Fang C1,4, Cao D1,2, Shi X1, Kong L1,4, Su T1,4, Zhang F1,4, Li S1,4, Wang Z5, Yuan X1, Cober ER6, Weller JL7, Liu B1,2, Hou X3, Tian Z5, Kong F1,2.

Author information

Key Laboratory of Soybean Molecular Design Breeding, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Harbin, China.
School of Life Sciences, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou, China.
Key Laboratory of South China Agricultural Plant Molecular Analysis and Genetic Improvement, and Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied Botany, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China.
University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
State Key Laboratory of Plant Cell and Chromosome Engineering, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.


Soybean is a major legume crop originating in temperate regions, and photoperiod responsiveness is a key factor in its latitudinal adaptation. Varieties from temperate regions introduced to lower latitudes mature early and have extremely low grain yields. Introduction of the long-juvenile (LJ) trait extends the vegetative phase and improves yield under short-day conditions, thereby enabling expansion of cultivation in tropical regions. Here we report the cloning and characterization of J, the major classical locus conferring the LJ trait, and identify J as the ortholog of Arabidopsis thaliana EARLY FLOWERING 3 (ELF3). J depends genetically on the legume-specific flowering repressor E1, and J protein physically associates with the E1 promoter to downregulate its transcription, relieving repression of two important FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) genes and promoting flowering under short days. Our findings identify an important new component in flowering-time control in soybean and provide new insight into soybean adaptation to tropical regions.

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