Four cytochrome P450 genes, CYP6B8, CYP6B9, CYP6B27 and CYP6B28, exist in the Helicoverpa zea genome as two pairs of paralogs that evolved from gene duplication and 5'-polar gene conversion events. RT-PCR gel blot analyses have shown that all of these genes are expressed constitutively in midguts of all larval instars, suggesting that they have primary roles in the detoxification of plant allelochemicals. Among these, CYP6B9 is expressed only in midgut tissue whereas its paralog, CYP6B27, is expressed primarily in midgut and secondarily in fat body and ovary. CYP6B28 is expressed in midgut, fat body and, to lesser extents in ovary and integument whereas its paralog, CYP6B8, is expressed in midgut and to some extent in fat body. Comparison of the expression levels induced by eight plant allelochemicals, one drug (phenobarbital), and an insecticide (alpha-cypermethrin) indicates that, for the most part, the four P450s respond individually to these inducers, with all four induced strongly by chlorogenic acid, a shikimate pathway intermediate and a lignin biosynthesis intermediate present in a wide variety of plants, and indole-3-carbinol, a glucobrassicin breakdown product present in the Brassicaceae. The multiple levels at which these P450 genes are apparently diverging (e.g. transcriptional responses, protein sequences) support the suggestion that gene conversion events facilitate gene evolution by allowing duplicated copies greater time to acquire selectable differences in both coding and promoter sequences.
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