A femtomolar-range suicide germination stimulant for the parasitic plant Striga hermonthica

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1301-1305
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau5445

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A step toward control of a noxious weed

The parasitic plant Striga hermonthica causes extensive crop losses, particularly in Africa. Strigolactone hormones can be used to initiate germination of Striga seeds when no host crop is present, which causes the nascent Striga plants to die. Unfortunately, strigolactones are also used by crop plants to establish beneficial mutualisms. Uraguchi et al. developed a hybrid molecule that can initiate Striga germination without interfering with strigolactone-dependent events in the host (see the Perspective by Bouwmeester). The compound has the potential to diversify routes toward protecting fields from Striga infestation.

Science, this issue p. 1301; see also p. 1248


The parasitic plant Striga hermonthica has been causing devastating damage to the crop production in Africa. Because Striga requires host-generated strigolactones to germinate, the identification of selective and potent strigolactone agonists could help control these noxious weeds. We developed a selective agonist, sphynolactone-7, a hybrid molecule originated from chemical screening, that contains two functional modules derived from a synthetic scaffold and a core component of strigolactones. Cooperative action of these modules in the activation of a high-affinity strigolactone receptor ShHTL7 allows sphynolactone-7 to provoke Striga germination with potency in the femtomolar range. We demonstrate that sphynolactone-7 is effective for reducing Striga parasitism without impinging on host strigolactone-related processes.

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