Molecular ecology

Evolution and selection of Rhg1, a copy-number variant nematode-resistance locus.

PMID 25735447


The soybean cyst nematode (SCN) resistance locus Rhg1 is a tandem repeat of a 31.2xa0kb unit of the soybean genome. Each 31.2-kb unit contains four genes. One allele of Rhg1, Rhg1-b, is responsible for protecting most US soybean production from SCN. Whole-genome sequencing was performed, and PCR assays were developed to investigate allelic variation in sequence and copy number of the Rhg1 locus across a population of soybean germplasm accessions. Four distinct sequences of the 31.2-kb repeat unit were identified, and some Rhg1 alleles carry up to three different types of repeat unit. The total number of copies of the repeat varies from 1 to 10 per haploid genome. Both copy number and sequence of the repeat correlate with the resistance phenotype, and the Rhg1 locus shows strong signatures of selection. Significant linkage disequilibrium in the genome outside the boundaries of the repeat allowed the Rhg1 genotype to be inferred using high-density single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping of 15xa0996 accessions. Over 860 germplasm accessions were found likely to possess Rhg1 alleles. The regions surrounding the repeat show indications of non-neutral evolution and high genetic variability in populations from different geographic locations, but without evidence of fixation of the resistant genotype. A compelling explanation of these results is that balancing selection is in operation at Rhg1.