Kristin Bilyeu Ph.D. - ARS
Research Molecular Biologist
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Soybean oil research
Soybean oil is the major source of vegetable oil used for foods in the United States. The fatty acid profile of soybean oil is naturally relatively low in saturated fatty acids and contains healthy amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids. However, specific changes in the soybean fatty acid profile can lead to even healthier oil products for human consumption.
Low Linolenic Acid Soybeans
We have identified and characterized three soybean microsomal omega-three fatty acid desaturase (FAD3) genes that are responsible for the conversion of linoleic acid precursors into linolenic acid precursors in seeds. Using a candidate gene approach, we identified mutations in these three genes that correspond to the low linolenic acid trait. These molecular characterizations tie together the previous extensive genetic analyses on the low linolenic acid trait with the biochemistry underlying the phenotype. During this research, we have developed allele-specific molecular marker assays for seven different mutations that can be recombined in a number of ways to produce soybeans with as low as 1% linolenic acid. In addition, we have developed novel low linolenic acid germplasm that can be used in conjunction with a backcross breeding program to develop new varieties with the low linolenic acid trait.
Mid Oleic Acid Soybeans
We are also interested in developing tools for breeding soybeans containing elevated oleic acid as a part of the fatty acid profile. For this project, we are characterizing other soybean fatty acid desaturase genes, taking both a candidate gene approach and a reverse genetics approach.
Other Research Areas
Reverse Genetics Population Development (in collaboration with Gary Stacey and Henry Nguyen, University of Missouri)
Development of high throughput molecular marker assays
Development of soybean germplasm (in collaboration with David Sleper and Grover Shannon, University of Missouri)
Understanding the domestication history of soybeans (in collaboration with Paul Beuselinck, USDA/ARS)
Characterizing soybean allele diversity
Biochemistry of cytokinin dehyrogenases (in collaboration with Ivo Frebort, Palacky University)