In order to obtain plant markers of chemical stress and possible tools for the bio-monitoring of pollution, a protein purification/PCR approach was used to isolate cDNAs of xenobiotic-inducible P450 oxygenases. O-dealkylation of 7-ethoxycoumarin is catalysed in Helianthus tuberosus by cytochromes P450 strongly inducible by a wide range of xenobiotics. Therefore, a 7-ethoxycoumarin O-de-ethylase (ECOD) was purified from induced tuber tissues (Batard et al., 1995). A primer designed from an internal peptide sequence, but also corresponding to a conserved P450 haem-binding region, led to the generation of a gene-specific probe corresponding to a P450 strongly inducible by aminopyrine. Two partial and 98% identical coding sequences were isolated from a cDNA library prepared from aminopyrine-induced tuber. A full-length cDNA was reconstituted by 5'-RACE elongation. The protein deduced from this full-length sequence, with 41.1% amino acid identity to CYP76A1 and high phylogenetic relationship to other CYP76s, was termed CYP76B1. CYP76B1 was expressed in yeast. Microsomes from the transformed yeast catalysed the NADPH-dependent O-dealkylation of 7-ethoxycoumarin. However, protein sequence as well as enzymological data indicated that CYP76B1 does not correspond to the purified ECOD protein. These results confirm previous data and demonstrate that several P450s in H. tuberosus are capable of actively catalysing the O-de-ethylation of ethoxycoumarin. Determination of the steady-state level of CYP76B1 transcripts after slicing tuber tissues and ageing them in water, alone or in the presence of various chemicals, showed that the expression of this P450 was not responsive to mechanical stress, but was strongly induced by chemical treatments. CYP76B1 thus appears to be a good potential marker of chemical stress and of environmental pollution.