A new herbicidal site of action: Cinmethylin binds to acyl-ACP thioesterase and inhibits plant fatty acid biosynthesis

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The prevalent occurrence of herbicide resistant weeds increases the necessity for new site of action herbicides for effective control as well as to relax selection pressure on the known sites of action. As a consequence, interest increased in the unexploited molecule cinmethylin as a new solution for the control of weedy grasses in cereals. Therefore, the mechanism of action of cinmethylin was reevaluated. We applied the chemoproteomic approach cellular Target Profiling™ from Evotec to identify the cinmethylin target in Lemna paucicostata protein extracts. We found three potential targets belonging to the same protein family of fatty acid thioesterases (FAT) to bind to cinmethylin with high affinity. Binding of cinmethylin to FAT proteins from Lemna and Arabidopsis was confirmed by fluorescence-based thermal shift assay. The plastid localized enzyme FAT plays a crucial role in plant lipid biosynthesis, by mediating the release of fatty acids (FA) from its acyl carrier protein (ACP) which is necessary for FA export to the endoplasmic reticulum. GC–MS analysis of free FA composition in Lemna extracts revealed strong reduction of unsaturated C18 as well as saturated C14, and C16 FAs upon treatment with cinmethylin, indicating that FA release for subsequent lipid biosynthesis is the primary target of cinmethylin. Lipid biosynthesis is a prominent target of different herbicide classes. To assess whether FAT inhibition constitutes a new mechanism of action within this complex pathway, we compared physiological effects of cinmethylin to different ACCase and VLCFA synthesis inhibitors and identified characteristic differences in plant symptomology and free FA composition upon treatment with the three herbicide classes. Also, principal component analysis of total metabolic profiling of treated Lemna plants showed strong differences in overall metabolic changes after cinmethylin, ACCase or VLCFA inhibitor treatments. Our results identified and confirmed FAT as the cinmethylin target and validate FAT inhibition as a new site of action different from other lipid biosynthesis inhibitor classes.




Campe, R., Hollenbach, E., Kämmerer, L., Hendriks, J., Höffken, H. W., Kraus, H., … Hutzler, J. (2018). A new herbicidal site of action: Cinmethylin binds to acyl-ACP thioesterase and inhibits plant fatty acid biosynthesis. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology, 148, 116–125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pestbp.2018.04.006

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