Bioinformatics approach used to uncover the weed killer could also be used to find new drugs for medications
A garden can be a competitive environment. Plants and unseen microorganisms in the soil all need precious space to grow. And to gain that space, a microbe might produce and use chemicals that kill its plant competitors. But the microbe also needs immunity from its own poisons.
By looking for that protective shield in microorganisms, specifically the genes that can make it, a team of UCLA engineers and scientists discovered a new and potentially highly effective type of weed killer. This finding could lead to the first new class of commercial herbicides in more than 30 years, an important outcome as weeds continue to develop resistance to current herbicide regimens.
Using a technique that combines data science and genomics, the team found the new herbicide by searching the genes of thousands of fungi for one that might provide immunity against fungal poisons. This approach is known as “resistance gene-directed genome mining.”
The study, which was published in Nature, also points to the potential for this genomics-driven approach to be used in medicine, with applications ranging from new antibiotics to advanced cancer-fighting drugs.
“Microorganisms are very smart at protecting themselves from the potent molecules they make to kill their enemies,” said Yi Tang, the study’s co-principal investigator and a UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and of chemistry and biochemistry. “The presence of these resistance genes provides a window into the functions of the molecules, and can allow us to discover these molecules and apply them to diverse applications in human health and agriculture.”
For example, if a resistance gene that protects a microorganism from an anti-bacterial product is found, there’s a possibility that the microorganism also has genes to produce that same anti-bacterial compound. That discovery could potentially lead to new antibacterial medicines.
The new herbicide acts by inhibiting the function of an enzyme that is necessary for plants’ survival. The enzyme is a key catalyst in an important metabolic pathway that makes essential amino acids. When this pathway is disrupted, the plants die.
This pathway is not present in mammals, including humans, which is why it has been a common target in herbicide research and development. The new herbicide works on a different part of the pathway than current herbicides. A commercial product that uses it would require more research and regulatory approval.
“An exciting aspect of the work is that we not only discovered a new herbicide, but also its exact target in the plant, opening the possibility of modifying crops to be resistant to a commercial product based on this herbicide,” said study co-principal investigator Steven Jacobsen, a professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology in the UCLA College and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “We are looking to work with large agrochemical companies to develop this promising lead further.”
To confirm the efficacy of the new herbicide, the UCLA team tested the fungus-produced product on a common plant used in lab studies called Arabidopsis. In experiments, the product killed the plants after they were sprayed with it. The researchers also implanted the resistance gene from the fungus into Arabidopsis genomes. The plants that had the resistance gene implanted in them were immune to the herbicide.
“The emergence of herbicide-resistance weeds is thwarting every herbicide class in use; in fact, there has not been a new type commercialized within the last 30 years,” said Yan Yan, a UCLA chemical engineering graduate student who was a lead author of the paper. “We think this new, powerful herbicide — combined with crops that are immune to it — will complement urgent efforts in overcoming weed resistance.”
The Latest on: Weed resistance
via Google News
The Latest on: Weed resistance
- Weed seeds sought by U-MN Extensionon October 11, 2021 at 1:06 am
University of Minnesota Extension weed scientists are asking farmers to participate in another weed survey. Debalin Sarangi, U-MN Extension weed scientist, and graduate student Navjot Singh in an Oct.
- Weeds as reservoir for Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV)on October 10, 2021 at 7:03 am
Weeds are an important host of Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV) in the Salinas Valley. It is a tospovirus that is spread primarily by western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis). It has a ...
- Acuron delivers answers for season-long weed controlon October 10, 2021 at 6:30 am
At the end of a growing season, farmers have questions. Chad Threewits, Syngenta agronomy service representative for Indiana, said some of the most important questions are the ones that farmers can ...
- Tar spot and weed seed management important this fallon October 6, 2021 at 4:00 pm
There are two major issues this fall: tar spot affecting the stalks on corn stalks, and the moving of herbicide resistant weed seeds from one field to the next.
- Next generation weed management toolson October 6, 2021 at 5:00 am
Herbicide resistance is increasing globally, every year. Can new, genetics-based strategies for detecting and solving herbicide resistance help farmers ...
- Weed goes off script to resist herbicideson October 5, 2021 at 12:08 pm
Cementing waterhemp’s reputation as a hard-to-kill weed in corn and soybean production systems, University of Illinois researchers have now documented the weed deviating from standard detoxification ...
- Play Offense Against Weedson October 5, 2021 at 12:01 pm
We go into every season with a prepared plan for traited beans and we fight post weeds with glufosinate, AMS, and Enlist.” Atrazine and Callisto, according to Liefer, afford corn a degree of ...
- Ampersand® and Accomplice® Adjuvant A Resource for Growers During Herbicide Shortageon October 5, 2021 at 8:59 am
Attune Agriculture, the leader in developing performance based agricultural products using hydrocolloid technology, joins growers and distributors in the ag community on one of its biggest challenges ...
- Novel approaches to managing weed seeds in cropson October 5, 2021 at 4:00 am
Weed scientists discussed new methods of weed seed management that are potential solutions for growers. Herbicide resistance is not a new issue, but the rapid increase in biotypes with resistance to ...
via Bing News