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Plant Physiol. 2005 Jun;138(2):600-10.

Genome organization of more than 300 defensin-like genes in Arabidopsis.

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.


Defensins represent an ancient and diverse set of small, cysteine-rich, antimicrobial peptides in mammals, insects, and plants. According to published accounts, most species' genomes contain 15 to 50 defensins. Starting with a set of largely nodule-specific defensin-like sequences (DEFLs) from the model legume Medicago truncatula, we built motif models to search the near-complete Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) genome. We identified 317 DEFLs, yet 80% were unannotated at The Arabidopsis Information Resource and had no prior evidence of expression. We demonstrate that many of these DEFL genes are clustered in the Arabidopsis genome and that individual clusters have evolved from successive rounds of gene duplication and divergent or purifying selection. Sequencing reverse transcription-PCR products from five DEFL clusters confirmed our gene predictions and verified expression. For four of the largest clusters of DEFLs, we present the first evidence of expression, most frequently in floral tissues. To determine the abundance of DEFLs in other plant families, we used our motif models to search The Institute for Genomic Research's gene indices and identified approximately 1,100 DEFLs. These expressed DEFLs were found mostly in reproductive tissues, consistent with our reverse transcription-PCR results. Sequence-based clustering of all identified DEFLs revealed separate tissue- or taxon-specific subgroups. Previously, we and others showed that more than 300 DEFL genes were expressed in M. truncatula nodules, organs not present in most plants. We have used this information to annotate the Arabidopsis genome and now provide evidence of a large DEFL superfamily present in expressed tissues of all sequenced plants.

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