RNAi and CRISPR–Cas silencing E3-RING ubiquitin ligase AIP2 enhances soybean seed protein content

Bo Shen, Monica A. Schmidt, Kristin Haug Collet, Zhan Bin Liu, Monique Coy, Shane Abbitt, Lynda Molloy, Mary Frank, John D. Everard, Russ Booth, Partha P. Samadar, Yonghua He, Anthony Kinney, Eliot M. Herman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The majority of plant protein in the world’s food supply is derived from soybean (Glycine max). Soybean is a key protein source for global animal feed and is incorporated into plant-based foods for people, including meat alternatives. Soybean protein content is genetically variable and is usually inversely related to seed oil content. ABI3-interacting protein 2 (AIP2) is an E3-RING ubiquitin ligase that targets the seed-specific transcription factor ABI3. Silencing both soybean AIP2 genes (AIP2a and AIP2b) by RNAi enhanced seed protein content by up to seven percentage points, with no significant decrease in seed oil content. The protein content enhancement did not alter the composition of the seed storage proteins. Inactivation of either AIP2a or AIP2b by a CRISPR–Cas9-mediated mutation increased seed protein content, and this effect was greater when both genes were inactivated. Transactivation assays in transfected soybean hypocotyl protoplasts indicated that ABI3 changes the expression of glycinin, conglycinin, 2S albumin, and oleosin genes, indicating that AIP2 depletion increased seed protein content by regulating activity of the ABI3 transcription factor protein. These results provide an example of a gene-editing prototype directed to improve global food security and protein availability in soybean that may also be applicable to other protein-source crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7285-7297
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number22
StatePublished - Dec 8 2022


  • AIP2
  • CRISPR–Cas
  • Glycine max
  • RNAi
  • seed protein
  • soybean
  • ubiquitin ligase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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