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BMC Evol Biol. 2009 May 5;9:90. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-9-90.

Phylogenetic analysis, structural evolution and functional divergence of the 12-oxo-phytodienoate acid reductase gene family in plants.

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State Key Laboratory for Biocontrol and Key Laboratory of Gene Engineering of Ministry of Education, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, 510275, Guangzhou, PR China.



The 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid reductases (OPRs) are enzymes that catalyze the reduction of double-bonds in alpha, beta-unsaturated aldehydes or ketones and are part of the octadecanoid pathway that converts linolenic acid to jasmonic acid. In plants, OPRs belong to the old yellow enzyme family and form multigene families. Although discoveries about this family in Arabidopsis and other species have been reported in some studies, the evolution and function of multiple OPRs in plants are not clearly understood.


A comparative genomic analysis was performed to investigate the phylogenetic relationship, structural evolution and functional divergence among OPR paralogues in plants. In total, 74 OPR genes were identified from 11 species representing the 6 major green plant lineages: green algae, mosses, lycophytes, gymnosperms, monocots and dicots. Phylogenetic analysis showed that seven well-conserved subfamilies exist in plants. All OPR genes from green algae were clustered into a single subfamily, while those from land plants fell into six other subfamilies, suggesting that the events leading to the expansion of the OPR family occurred in land plants. Further analysis revealed that lineage-specific expansion, especially by tandem duplication, contributed to the current OPR subfamilies in land plants after divergence from aquatic plants. Interestingly, exon/intron structure analysis showed that the gene structures of OPR paralogues exhibits diversity in intron number and length, while the intron positions and phase were highly conserved across different lineage species. These observations together with the phylogenetic tree revealed that successive single intron loss, as well as indels within introns, occurred during the process of structural evolution of OPR paralogues. Functional divergence analysis revealed that altered functional constraints have occurred at specific amino acid positions after diversification of the paralogues. Most notably, significant functional divergence was also found in all pairs, except for the II/IV, II/V and V/VI pairs. Strikingly, analysis of the site-specific profiles established by posterior probability revealed that the positive-selection sites and/or critical amino acid residues for functional divergence are mainly distributed in alpha-helices and substrate binding loop (SBL), indicating the functional importance of these regions for this protein family.


This study highlights the molecular evolution of the OPR gene family in all plant lineages and indicates critical amino acid residues likely relevant for the distinct functional properties of the paralogues. Further experimental verification of these findings may provide valuable information on the OPRs' biochemical and physiological functions.

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