Availability of genomewide information on an increasing but still limited number of plants offers the possibility of identifying orthologues, or related genes, in species with major economical impact and complex genomes. In this paper we exploit the recently described CODEHOP primer design and PCR strategy for targeted isolation of homologues in large gene families.
The method was tested with two different objectives. The first was to analyze the evolution of the CYP98 family of cytochrome P450 genes involved in 3-hydroxylation of phenolic compounds and lignification in a broad range of plant species. The second was to isolate an orthologue of the sorghum glucosyl transferase UGT85B1 and to determine the complexity of the UGT85 family in wheat. P450s of the CYP98 family or closely related sequences were found in all vascular plants. No related sequence was found in moss. Neither extensive duplication of the CYP98 genes nor an orthologue of UGT85B1 were found in wheat. The UGT85A subfamily was however found to be highly variable in wheat.
Our data are in agreement with the implication of CYP98s in lignification and the evolution of 3-hydroxylation of lignin precursors with vascular plants. High conservation of the CYP98 family strongly argues in favour of an essential function in plant development. Conversely, high duplication and diversification of the UGT85A gene family in wheat suggests its involvement in adaptative response and provides a valuable pool of genes for biotechnological applications. This work demonstrates the high potential of the CODEHOP strategy for the exploration of large gene families in plants.