News from Old Compounds: The Mode of Action of Auxin Herbicides

BASF Aktiengesellschaft, Agricultural Center, PO Box 120, D-67114 Limburgerhof, Germany
DOI: 10.1002/3527602038.ch11 In book: Chemistry of Crop Protection: Progress and Prospects in Science and Regulation, pp.131 - 142
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    ABSTRACT: A bird's eye review was tried to select the bio-rational targets from known and novel plant-specific ones for the molecular design of modern herbicides, which exhibit efficient phytotoxicity at a low-use rate and preserve a good environment in the 21st century. In phytotoxic sites in the photosynthetic electron transport (PET) system discussed in the present article (Part 1), the generally called bleaching herbicides interfering with the biosynthesis of photosynthetic pigments, chlorophylls and carotenoids, and the biosynthesis of plastoquinone, were considered to be good models for the molecular design of modern herbicides. The PET itself was still considered as an interesting target site for new herbicides, although they need to exert their action in all green leaves of weeds to achieve herbicidal efficacy. Because these herbicides never form a tight binding with D1-protein, their use-rate cannot be expected to be as low as the herbicides inhibiting chlorophyll or branched amino-acid biosynthesis. Other herbicidal targets found in chloroplasts, namely ATP and NADPH formations, have already been omitted from the worldwide biorational molecular design program of herbicides targeting the PET system.
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    ABSTRACT: Synthetic compounds that act like phytohormonal 'superauxins' have been among the most successful herbicides used in agriculture for more than 60 years. These so-called auxin herbicides are more stable in planta than the main natural auxin, indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), and show systemic mobility and selective action, preferentially against dicot weeds in cereal crops. They belong to different chemical classes, which include phenoxycarboxylic acids, benzoic acids, pyridinecarboxylic acids, aromatic carboxymethyl derivatives and quinolinecarboxylic acids. The recent identification of receptors for auxin perception and the discovery of a new hormone interaction in signalling between auxin, ethylene and the upregulation of abscisic acid biosynthesis account for a large part of the repertoire of auxin-herbicide-mediated responses, which include growth inhibition, senescence and tissue decay in sensitive dicots. An additional phenomenon is caused by the quinolinecarboxylic acid quinclorac, which also controls grass weeds. Here, the accumulation of phytotoxic levels of tissue cyanide, derived ultimately from quinclorac-stimulated ethylene biosynthesis, plays a key role in eliciting the herbicidal symptoms in sensitive grasses.
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    ABSTRACT: Herbicides are small molecules that inhibit specific molecular target sites within plant biochemical pathways and/or physiological processes. Inhibition of these sites often has catastrophic consequences that are lethal to plants. The affinity of these compounds for their respective target sites makes them useful tools to study and dissect the intricacies of plant biochemical and physiological processes. For instance, elucidation of the photosynthetic electron transport chain was achieved in part by the use of herbicides, such as terbutryn and paraquat, which act on photosystem II and I, respectively, as physiological probes. Work stemming from the discovery of the binding site of PS II–inhibiting herbicides was ultimately awarded the Nobel Prize in 1988. Although not as prestigious as the seminal work on photosynthesis, our knowledge of many other plant processes expanded significantly through the ingenious use of inhibitors as molecular probes. Examples highlight the critical role played by herbicides in expanding our understanding of the fundamental aspects of the synthesis of porphyrins and the nonmevalonate pathway, the evolution of acetyl-coenzyme A carboxylase, cell wall physiology, the functions of microtubules and the cell cycle, the role of auxin and cyanide, the importance of subcellular protein targeting, and the development of selectable markers.
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