Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 37, Issue 12, pp 1611–1624 | Cite as

Physiological and transcriptomic responses of reproductive stage soybean to drought stress

  • Congshan Xu
  • Chao Xia
  • Zhiqiang Xia
  • Xiangjun Zhou
  • Jing Huang
  • Zhiqiang Huang
  • Yan Liu
  • Yiwei Jiang
  • Shaun Casteel
  • Cankui ZhangEmail author
Original Article


Key message

The dynamic alterations of the physiological and molecular processes in reproductive stage soybean indicated the dramatic impact caused by drought.


Drought is a major abiotic stress that limits soybean (Glycine max) production. Most prior studies were focused on either model species or crops that are at their vegetative stages. It is known that the reproductive stage of soybean is more susceptible to drought. Therefore, an understanding on the responsive mechanisms during this stage will not only be important for basic plant physiology, but the knowledge can also be used for crop improvement via either genetic engineering or molecular breeding. In this study, physiological measurements and RNA-Seq analysis were used to dissect the metabolic alterations and molecular responses in the leaves of soybean grown at drought condition. Photosynthesis rate, stomata conductance, transpiration, and water potential were reduced. The activities of SOD and CAT were increased, while the activity of POD stayed unchanged. A total of 2771 annotated genes with at least twofold changes were found to be differentially expressed in the drought-stressed plants in which 1798 genes were upregulated and 973 were downregulated. Via KEGG analysis, these genes were assigned to multiple molecular pathways, including ABA biogenesis, compatible compound accumulation, secondary metabolite synthesis, fatty acid desaturation, plant transcription factors, etc. The large number of differentially expressed genes and the diverse pathways indicated that soybean employs complicated mechanisms to cope with drought. Some of the identified genes and pathways can be used as targets for genetic engineering or molecular breeding to improve drought resistance in soybean.


Soybean Drought Transcriptome Reproductive stage 



This work was supported by a start-up fund (to C.Z.) from Purdue University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

299_2018_2332_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 26 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AgronomyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Maize Research InstituteSichuan Agricultural UniversityChengduChina
  3. 3.Institute of Tropical Bioscience and BiotechnologyChinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural SciencesHaikouChina
  4. 4.Biost Technology Co., LtdBeijingChina
  5. 5.The Institute of SericultureZhejiang Academy of Agricultural SciencesHangzhouChina
  6. 6.Purdue Center for Plant BiologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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