Spilling the DNA Beans on Soybeans

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Chances are, you have come across a soybean today. Soybeans are the world’s second biggest crop (corn is the first) and they are in lots of products, from paper to peanut butter. Globally, soybeans are one of the main sources of protein and oil. This versatile legume may also play a role in reducing cancer risk.starr-090611-0622

This week scientists published the sequence of the soybean genome, which could potentially help all these areas of research.

You can read the abstract of the paper in the journal Nature here.

The soybean is the first legume sequenced. Scientists now plan to identify which genes are responsible for particular plant characteristics, and then target specific genes to produce desired characteristics, such as more antioxidants.

Here’s a few soybean genome highlights:
– It contains about 46,000 genes (in comparison, humans have about 25,000; the earthworm about 19,000, and corn about 32,000).
– It contains a huge number of multiple copies of the same gene: about 75 percent of its genome.
– The soybean duplicated its DNA at least twice: approximately 59 million years ago and then again 13 million years ago.

Soybeans are packed with protein, vitamins and other cancer-fighting compounds. If knowing its genome wants to make you try this legume in your diet, here’s one recipe idea: Edamame and Orange Salad (soybeans are also called edamame).

You can also read more about soybeans’ possible role in cancer prevention here.


Author: Mya Nelson

Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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