A model legume Lotus japonicus (Regel) K. Larsen is one of the subjects of genome sequencing and functional genomics programs. In the course of targeted approaches to the legume genomics, we analyzed the genes encoding enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of the legume-specific 5-deoxyisoflavonoid of L. japonicus, which produces isoflavan phytoalexins on elicitor treatment. The paralogous biosynthetic genes were assigned as comprehensively as possible by biochemical experiments, similarity searches, comparison of the gene structures, and phylogenetic analyses. Among the 10 biosynthetic genes investigated, six comprise multigene families, and in many cases they form gene clusters in the chromosomes. Semi-quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR analyses showed coordinate up-regulation of most of the genes during phytoalexin induction and complex accumulation patterns of the transcripts in different organs. Some paralogous genes exhibited similar expression specificities, suggesting their genetic redundancy. The molecular evolution of the biosynthetic genes is discussed. The results presented here provide reliable annotations of the genes and genetic markers for comparative and functional genomics of leguminous plants.
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