Plant P450s as versatile drivers for evolution of species-specific chemical diversity

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013 Jan 6;368(1612):20120426. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0426. Print 2013 Feb 19.


The irreversible nature of reactions catalysed by P450s makes these enzymes landmarks in the evolution of plant metabolic pathways. Founding members of P450 families are often associated with general (i.e. primary) metabolic pathways, restricted to single copy or very few representatives, indicative of purifying selection. Recruitment of those and subsequent blooms into multi-member gene families generates genetic raw material for functional diversification, which is an inherent characteristic of specialized (i.e. secondary) metabolism. However, a growing number of highly specialized P450s from not only the CYP71 clan indicate substantial contribution of convergent and divergent evolution to the observed general and specialized metabolite diversity. We will discuss examples of how the genetic and functional diversification of plant P450s drives chemical diversity in light of plant evolution. Even though it is difficult to predict the function or substrate of a P450 based on sequence similarity, grouping with a family or subfamily in phylogenetic trees can indicate association with metabolism of particular classes of compounds. Examples will be given that focus on multi-member gene families of P450s involved in the metabolic routes of four classes of specialized metabolites: cyanogenic glucosides, glucosinolates, mono- to triterpenoids and phenylpropanoids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Color
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / chemistry*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Flowers / chemistry
  • Flowers / enzymology
  • Flowers / genetics
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Multigene Family
  • Pigments, Biological / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Rosaceae / enzymology*
  • Rosaceae / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Species Specificity


  • Pigments, Biological
  • Plant Proteins
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System