Seed protein and oil content are the two important traits determining the quality and value of soybean. Development of improved cultivars requires detailed understanding of the genetic basis underlying the trait of interest. However, it is prerequisite to have a high-density linkage map for precisely mapping genomic regions, and therefore the present study used high-density genetic map containing 2267 recombination bin markers distributed on 20 chromosomes and spanned 2453.79 cM with an average distance of 1.08 cM between markers using restriction-site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) approach. A recombinant inbred line (RIL) population of 104 lines derived from a cross between Linhefenqingdou and Meng 8206 cultivars was evaluated in six different environments to identify main- and epistatic-effect quantitative trait loci (QTLs)as well as their interaction with environments. A total of 44 main-effect QTLs for protein and oil content were found to be distributed on 17 chromosomes, and 15 novel QTL were identified for the first time. Out of these QTLs, four were major and stable QTLs, viz., qPro-7-1, qOil-8-3, qOil-10-2 and qOil-10-4, detected in at least two environments plus combined environment with R2
values >10%. Within the physical intervals of these four QTLs, 111 candidate genes were screened for their direct or indirect involvement in seed protein and oil biosynthesis/metabolism processes based on gene ontology and annotation information. Based on RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data analysis, 15 of the 111 genes were highly expressed during seed development stage and root nodules that might be considered as the potential candidate genes. Seven QTLs associated with protein and oil content exhibited significant additive and additive × environment interaction effects, and environment-independent QTLs revealed higher additive effects. Moreover, three digenic epistatic QTLs pairs were identified, and no main-effect QTLs showed epistasis. In conclusion, the use of a high-density map identified closely linked flanking markers, provided better understanding of genetic architecture and candidate gene information, and revealed the scope available for improvement of soybean quality through marker assisted selection (MAS).
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