Plant defensins are small, diverse, cysteine-rich peptides, belonging to a group of pathogenesis-related defense mechanism proteins, which can provide a barrier against a broad range of pathogens. In this study, 51 defensin-like (DEFL) genes in Gramineae, including brachypodium, rice, maize and sorghum were identified based on bioinformatics methods. Using the synteny analysis method, we found that 21 DEFL genes formed 30 pairs of duplicated blocks that have undergone large-scale duplication events, mostly occurring between species. In particular, some chromosomal regions are highly conserved in the four grasses. Using mean Ks values, we estimated the approximate time of divergence for each pair of duplicated regions and found that these regions generally diverged more than 40 million years ago (Mya). Selection pressure analysis showed that the DEFL gene family is subjected to purifying selection. However, sliding window analysis detected partial regions of duplicated genes under positive selection. The evolutionary patterns within DEFL gene families among grasses can be used to explore the subsequent functional divergence of duplicated genes and to further analyse the antimicrobial effects of defensins during plant development.
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This work was supported by the National Key Technologies Research and Development Programme of China (2012BAD20B00) and Anhui Provincial Natural Science Foundation (1408085MK L35). We would like to thank members of Key Laboratory of Crop Biology of Anhui province for their assistance in this study.
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