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Mapping the Soybean Genome

Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, Monsanto Company and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are teaming to map the soybean genome. Soybeans are a major feedstock for biodiesel, in addition to their other uses.

The project’s intent is to map single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) DNA markers in soybeans, creating a detailed molecular genetic map of the soybean that includes a large number of SNP DNA markers along with pre-existing SSR (simple sequence repeat) markers.

The collaborators plan to make the information available in Soybase, the USDA Soybean Genome Database, and dbSNP, the National Center for Biotechnology Information SNP database, as well as publish the information in scientific journals so plant breeders have access to the data.

A SNP is a specific location along a chromosome where there is a variation in the genetic sequence. This variation can be used as a genetic marker. Scientists often use genetic markers as a tag to identify the specific location of a genetic trait on a chromosome. By tagging the desired trait, plant breeders can breed plants more efficiently and more accurately.

Because all of the SNPs are located in genes, the result of the work will be a genetic map that defines gene-rich regions of the soybean genome. It is the gene-containing regions that are of greatest interest to soybean breeders and geneticists who want to develop genetically superior soybean varieties with enhanced seed quality, greater disease resistance, and superior drought tolerance and yield.

—Perry Cregan, USDA-ARS

ARS scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, discovered the soybean SNPs and saw value for public researchers in having the SNPs mapped. As part of the agreement, Monsanto will provide funding to support the mapping, which Genaissance will perform, given its expertise as a SNP genotyping services provider.

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