Proteins containing domains homologous to the E6-associated protein (E6-AP) carboxyl terminus (HECT) are an important class of E3 ubiquitin ligases involved in the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. HECT-type E3s play crucial roles in plant growth and development. However, current understanding of plant HECT genes and their evolution is very limited. In this study, we performed a genome-wide analysis of the HECT domain-containing genes in soybean. Using high-quality genome sequences, we identified 19 soybean HECT genes. The predicted HECT genes were distributed unevenly across 15 of 20 chromosomes. Nineteen of these genes were inferred to be segmentally duplicated gene pairs, suggesting that in soybean, segmental duplications have made a significant contribution to the expansion of the HECT gene family. Phylogenetic analysis showed that these HECT genes can be divided into seven groups, among which gene structure and domain architecture was relatively well-conserved. The Ka/Ks ratios show that after the duplication events, duplicated HECT genes underwent purifying selection. Moreover, expression analysis reveals that 15 of the HECT genes in soybean are differentially expressed in 14 tissues, and are often highly expressed in the flowers and roots. In summary, this work provides useful information on which further functional studies of soybean HECT genes can be based.
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