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Research Highlights

Research Highlights
Development of High ω-3 Soybean Germplasm

By David Hildebrand, University of Kentucky

This research is developing high ω3 (α-linolenic acid or ALA) soybean lines using a new, precision, non-GMO approach. Because ALA is an essential fatty acid which must be consumed by animals and humans, this germplasm
will be useful as an animal feed. It will also facilitate developing soybeans with high levels of other essential ω3 acids in the future. 

This $51,989 project has three main goals: 1) test soybean ω-3 desaturases in yeast; 2) combine the highest activity ω-3 desaturase with a soybean oil body oleosin promoter; and 3) insert the construct into soybeans, select the highest ω-3 somatic embryos and grow out plants. A yeast strain was transformed with the three soybean ω3 biosynthesis genes GmFAD3A, GmFAD3B and GmFAD3C. GmFAD3A and GmFAD3B have higher activities than GmFAD3C in yeast, especially at low temperatures. Seed oil from a wild soybean relative, Glycine soja, was determined to have higher ω3 levels than cultivated soybeans, Glycine max, and the former were grown to clone the relevant genes. Soybean tissues have already been produced that contain some of the new genes, and some show much higher ω3 levels. These were grown out to whole plants, and the resulting seeds will be tested for oil content. 

Increasing the quantity and quality of oil in soybean crops will significantly increase their market value, supplying the growing demand for ω3 for direct human consumption, high ω3 eggs and aquaculture ω3 feed.

Figure 1. Scattergram of alpha linolenic acid (18:3) and linoleic acid (18:2) levels in matured and desiccated somatic embryo lines with soybean ω-3 desaturase (FAD3A, B or C). Different lines show significantly higher and lower linolenic acid levels than the parental cultivar Jack.

To find research related to this Research Highlight, please visit the National Soybean Checkoff Research Database.