Background: The functional and evolutionary diversification of insect cytochrome P450s (CYPs) shaped the success of insects. CYPs constitute one of the largest and oldest gene superfamilies that are found in virtually all aerobic organisms. Because of the availability of whole genome sequence and well functioning RNA interference (RNAi), the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum serves as an ideal insect model for conducting functional genomics studies. Although several T. castaneum CYPs had been functionally investigated in our previous studies, the roles of the majority of CYPs remain largely unknown. Here, we comprehensively analyzed the phylogenetic relationship of all T. castaneum CYPs with genes in other insect species, investigated the CYP6BQ gene cluster organization, function and evolution, as well as examined the mitochondrial CYPs gene expression patterns and intron-exon organization.Results: A total 143 CYPs were identified and classified into 26 families and 59 subfamilies. The phylogenetic trees of CYPs among insects across taxa provided evolutionary insight for the genetic distance and function. The percentage of singleton (33.3%) in T. castaneum CYPs is much less than those in Drosophila melanogaster (52.5%) and Bombyx mori (51.2%). Most members in the largest CYP6BQ gene cluster may make contribution to deltamethrin resistance in QTC279 strain. T. castaneum genome encodes nine mitochondrial CYPs, among them CYP12H1 is only expressed in the final instar larval stage. The intron-exon organizations of these mitochondrial CYPs are highly diverse.Conclusion: Our studies provide a platform to understand the evolution and functions of T. castaneum CYP gene superfamily which will help reveal the strategies employed by insects to cope with their environment.
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