Higher plants possess a large set of the classical guaiacol peroxidases (class III peroxidases, E.C. 126.96.36.199). These enzymes have been implicated in a wide array of physiological processes such as H(2)O(2) detoxification, auxin catabolism and lignin biosynthesis and stress response (wounding, pathogen attack, etc.). During the last 10 years, molecular cloning has allowed the isolation and characterization of several genes encoding peroxidases in plants. The achievement of the large scale Arabidopsis genome sequencing, combined with the DNA complementary to RNA (cDNA) expressed sequence tags projects, provided the opportunity to draw up the first comprehensive list of peroxidases in a plant. By screening the available databases, we have identified 73 peroxidase genes throughout the Arabidopsis genome. The evolution of the peroxidase multigene family has been investigated by analyzing the gene structure (intron/exon) in correlation with the phylogenetic relationships between the isoperoxidases. An evolutionary pattern of extensive gene duplications can be inferred and is discussed. Using a cDNA array procedure, the expression pattern of 23 peroxidases was established in the different organs of the plant. All the tested peroxidases were expressed at various levels in roots, while several were also detected in stems, leaves and flowers. The specific functions of these genes remain to be determined.