BackgroundThe deubiquitinase (DUB) family constitutes a group of proteases that regulate the stability or reverse the ubiquitination of many proteins in the cell. These enzymes participate in cell-cycle regulation, cell division and differentiation, diverse physiological activities such as DNA damage repair, growth and development, and response to stress. However, limited information is available on this family of genes in woody plants.ResultsIn the present study, 88 DUB family genes were identified in the woody model plant Populus trichocarpa, comprising 44 PtrUBP, 3 PtrUCH, 23 PtrOTU, 4 PtrMJD, and 14 PtrJAMM genes with similar domains. According to phylogenetic analysis, the PtrUBP genes were classified into 16 groups, the PtrUCH genes into two, the PtrOTU genes into eight, the PtrMJD genes into two, and the PtrJAMM genes into seven. Members of same subfamily had similar gene structure and motif distribution characteristics. Synteny analysis of the DUB family genes from P. thrchocarpa and four other plant species provided insight into the evolutionary traits of DUB genes. Expression profiles derived from previously published transcriptome data revealed distinct expression patterns of DUB genes in various tissues. On the basis of the results of analysis of promoter cis-regulatory elements, we selected 16 representative PtrUBP genes to treatment with abscisic acid, methyl jasmonate, or salicylic acid applied as a foliar spray. The majority of PtrUBP genes were upregulated in response to the phytohormone treatments, which implied that the genes play potential roles in abiotic stress response in Populus.ConclusionsThe results of this study broaden our understanding of the DUB family in plants. Analysis of the gene structure, conserved elements, and expression patterns of the DUB family provides a solid foundation for exploration of their specific functions in Populus and to elucidate the potential role of PtrUBP gene in abiotic stress response.