Glycosyltransferases (GTs) (EC 2.4.x.y) catalyze the transfer of sugar moieties to a wide range of acceptor molecules, such as sugars, lipids, proteins, nucleic acids, antibiotics and other small molecules, including plant secondary metabolites. These enzymes can be classified into at least 92 families, of which family 1 glycosyltransferases (GT1), often referred to as UDP glycosyltransferases (UGTs), is the largest in the plant kingdom. To understand how UGTs expanded in both number and function during evolution of land plants, we screened genome sequences from six plants (Physcomitrella patens, Selaginella moellendorffii, Populus trichocarpa, Oryza sativa, Arabidopsis thaliana and Arabidopsis lyrata) for the presence of a conserved UGT protein domain. Phylogenetic analyses of the UGT genes revealed a significant expansion of UGTs, with lineage specificity and a higher duplication rate in vascular plants after the divergence of Physcomitrella. The UGTs from the six species fell into 24 orthologous groups that contained genes derived from the common ancestor of these six species. Some orthologous groups contained multiple UGT families with known functions, suggesting that UGTs discriminate compounds as substrates in a lineage-specific manner. Orthologous groups containing only a single UGT family tend to play a crucial role in plants, suggesting that such UGT families may have not expanded because of evolutionary constraints.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.