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Dual-function C2H2-type zinc-finger transcription factor GmZFP7 contributes to isoflavone accumulation in soybean

Yue Feng*, Shengrui Zhang*, Jing Li*, Ruili Pei1, Ling Tian, Jie Qi1, Muhammad Azam1Kwadwo Gyapong Agyenim-Boateng, Abdulwahab S. Shaibu, Yitian Liu, Zuofeng Zhu, Bin Li*andJunming Sun*



Isoflavones are a class of secondary metabolites produced by legumes and play important roles in human health and plant stress tolerance. The C2H2 zinc-finger transcription factor (TF) functions in plant stress tolerance, but little is known about its function in isoflavone regulation in soybean (Glycine max). Here, we report a C2H2 zinc-finger TF gene, GmZFP7, which regulates isoflavone accumulation in soybean. Overexpressing GmZFP7 increased the isoflavone concentration in both transgenic hairy roots and plants. By contrast, silencing GmZFP7 expression significantly reduced isoflavone levels. Metabolomic and qRT-PCR analysis revealed that GmZFP7 can increase the flux of the phenylpropanoid pathway. Furthermore, dual-luciferase and electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that GmZFP7 regulates isoflavone accumulation by influencing the expression of Isoflavone synthase 2 (GmIFS2) and Flavanone 3 beta-hydroxylase 1 (GmF3H1). In this study, we demonstrate that GmZFP7 contributes to isoflavone accumulation by regulating the expression of the gateway enzymes (GmIFS2 and GmF3H1) of competing phenylpropanoid pathway branches to direct the metabolic flux into isoflavone. A haplotype analysis indicated that important natural variations were present in GmZFP7 promoters, with P-Hap1 and P-Hap3 being the elite haplotypes. Our findings provide insight into how GmZFP7 regulates the phenylpropanoid pathway and enhances soybean isoflavone content.