Identification of positive selection in disease response genes within members of the Poaceae.

Rech GE, Vargas WA, Sukno SA, Thon MR Plant Signaling & Behavior 2012, 7:1–9.
Millions of years of coevolution between plants and pathogens can leave footprints on their genomes and genes involved on this interaction are expected to show patterns of positive selection in which novel, beneficial alleles are rapidly fixed within the population. Using information about upregulated genes in maize during Colletotrichum graminicola infection and resources available in the Phytozome database, we looked for evidence of positive selection in the Poaceae lineage, acting on protein coding sequences related with plant defense. We found six genes with evidence of positive selection and another eight with sites showing episodic selection. Some of them have already been described as evolving under positive selection, but others are reported here for the first time including genes encoding isocitrate lyase, dehydrogenases, a multidrug transporter, a protein containing a putative leucine-rich repeat and other proteins with unknown functions. Mapping positively selected residues onto the predicted 3-D structure of proteins showed that most of them are located on the surface, where proteins are in contact with other molecules. We present here a set of Poaceae genes that are likely to be involved in plant defense mechanisms and have evidence of positive selection. These genes are excellent candidates for future functional validation.
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