A new drug to control plant branching

November 22, 2018

Since plants cannot move on their own, they have created an advantage for themselves by adjusting elongation speed and branching in accordance with the light environment and nutrition availability. Strigolactone plant hormones are known to maintain axillary bud dormancy and suppress branching. When plants sense poor nutrition, they strengthen their strigolactone activity and suppress branching to constrain the energy used for growth. Strigolactones are also known to induce germination of root parasitic weeds such as Striga (commonly known as Witchweed). Striga causes significant crop damage around the world, yet there is no known method for eliminating it. While it is known that the plant protein D14 recognizes strigolactones, its receptor mechanism is not fully understood since its receptors differ from many other strigolactones.

The University of Tokyo and RIKEN CSRS jointly developed a compound that strongly binds to D14 and discovered that this compound inhibits strigolactone action and increases branching (offshoots) in rice. These research results should greatly contribute to the development of new technologies for controlling plant branching and increasing crop yields and biomass to improve agriculture and realize a low-carbon society, as well as for removing root parasitic weeds such as Striga that cause tremendous damage in many parts of the world.

Original article
Molecular Plant doi:10.1016/j.molp.2018.10.006
H. Nakamura, K. Hirabayashi, T. Miyakawa, K. Kikuzato, W. Hu, Y. Xu, K. Jiang, I. Takahashi, R. Niiyama, N. Dohmae, M. Tanokura, T. Asami,
"Triazole ureas covalently bind to strigolactone receptor and antagonize strigolactone response".
Naoshi Dohmae
Unit Leader
Biomolecular Characterization Unit