BGI, the world's largest genomics organization, announced it has been selected by the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology at the University of Missouri to re-sequence 1,008 soybean germplasm lines, commencing with an initial contract in 2012 to re-sequence the first 100 lines drawn from the university's ongoing soybean research. Under the agreement, BGI will provide library construction, re-sequencing analysis, 5X soybean sequence genome coverage for each soybean line, and all related bioinformatics analysis.

The purpose of the re-sequencing project, "Better Soybean, Better Life," is to assist molecular breeding in order to enhance the productivity, biotic and abiotic stress tolerance, and nutritional quality of U.S.-grown soybeans by identifying genetic markers and understanding genetic variances and their associations with specific phenotypes or traits.  Among the key traits of interest to researchers, for example, are the content and quality of the oil derived from soybean seed, drought and flooding tolerance, and soybean nematode resistance.  The initial 100 soybean lines to be re-sequenced will include both new lines as well as lines that show desirable traits for which relevant genes can be targeted.  

The soybean, often called the miracle crop, is the world's foremost provider of protein and oil.In 2010, soybeans represented 58 percent of world oilseed production, with 35 percent of those soybeans produced in the United States. The total 2010 U.S. crop value exceeded $38.9 billion. For the fifth consecutive year, U.S. whole soybean exports hit record levels of $23 billion in 2010, accounting for 44 percent of the world's soybean trade.Domestically, soybeans provided 68 percent of the edible consumption of fats and oils in the United States. The soybean plant was originally introduced into the U.S. from China and other Asian countries.

"The U.S. has long been the leading global producer of the highest quality soybeans," stated Henry T. Nguyen, Ph.D., Director, National Center for Soybean Biotechnology. "The goal of our research is to further enhance U.S. soybean productivity and seed composition for a variety of applications, which we believe will help sustain the U.S. soybean producers' leadership position in the world and boost the U.S. economy by increasing global exports and creating new jobs. We selected BGI to conduct the soybean re-sequencing and data analysis because of its next-generation sequencing expertise and the breadth of its experience with whole genome re-sequencing of various species, including the soybean genome. The total number of lines to be re-sequenced - 1,008 - was chosen because the numeral eight in Chinese denotes prosperity. It is our hope that this effort will lead to a large-scale network of public-private partnerships and institutions that can potentially extend this re-sequencing effort to 5,000-10,000 soybean lines. This will greatly enhance gene discovery and molecular breeding efforts in the soybean community."

Stated Huanming Yang, Ph.D., Chairman of BGI: "We are pleased to have been selected by the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology to re-sequence 1,008 soybean germplasm lines, and we look forward to contributing to a greater understanding of the soybean species with the goal of increasing productivity and quality of this important crop. Given the breadth of our re-sequencing capabilities and experience in sequencing whole genomes of the soybean and other important crops such as maize and rice, we are well-resourced to contribute to this goal. In addition to genomics, BGI's comprehensive solutions for plant and animal research include transcriptomics, epigenomics, and proteomics."

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has revolutionized plant and animal research, allowing researchers to decode the whole genomes of many species. NGS also enables the detection of functional genes and markers of important traits to facilitate molecular breeding and improve agriculture production and conservation. BGI previously sequenced the soybean genome as part of the 1,000 Plant and Animal reference genome project launched in 2010 to generate reference genomes for 1,000 economically and scientifically important plant/animal species. Together with its collaborators, BGI has completed the genome sequencing and assembly for 95 species. A total of 540 species are either completed or in progress, including 152 plants and 388 animals. Recently, BGI and the University of California, Davis, entered apartnership to establish a state-of-the-art genome center in Sacramento, California to foster critical breakthroughs in the areas of food security and human, animal, and environmental health.