Cytochrome P450 monooxygenases play key roles in the metabolism of a wide variety of substrates and they are closely associated with endocellular physiological processes or detoxification metabolism under environmental exposure. To date, however, none has been systematically characterized in the phylum Ciliophora. T. thermophila possess many advantages as a eukaryotic model organism and it exhibits rapid and sensitive responses to xenobiotics, making it an ideal model system to study the evolutionary and functional diversity of the P450 monooxygenase gene family.
A total of 44 putative functional cytochrome P450 genes were identified and could be classified into 13 families and 21 sub-families according to standard nomenclature. The characteristics of both the conserved intron-exon organization and scaffold localization of tandem repeats within each P450 family clade suggested that the enlargement of T. thermophila P450 families probably resulted from recent separate small duplication events. Gene expression patterns of all T. thermophila P450s during three important cell physiological stages (vegetative growth, starvation and conjugation) were analyzed based on EST and microarray data, and three main categories of expression patterns were postulated. Evolutionary analysis including codon usage preference, site-specific selection and gene-expression evolution patterns were investigated and the results indicated remarkable divergences among the T. thermophila P450 genes.
The characterization, expression and evolutionary analysis of T. thermophila P450 monooxygenase genes in the current study provides useful information for understanding the characteristics and diversities of the P450 genes in the Ciliophora, and provides the baseline for functional analyses of individual P450 isoforms in this model ciliate species.