Stereoisomers of the naturally occurring strigolactones, strigol, sorgolactone, orobanchol, sorgomol and 5-deoxystrigol, 36 in total, were prepared and screened for the ability to induce and/or inhibit the germination of Striga hermonthica and Striga gesnerioides seeds collected from mature plants that parasitized on sorghum and cowpea, respectively. All of the compounds induced S. hermonthica seed germination, albeit displayed differential activities. On the other hand, only a limited number of the compounds induced significant germination in S. gesnerioides, thus indicating strict structural requirements. Strigolactones inducing high germination in S. gesnerioides induced low germination in S. hermonthica. Strigolactones with the same configuration at C3a, C8b and C2' as that in 5-deoxystrigol (9a) induced high germination of S. hermonthica seeds, but most of them inhibited the germination of S. gesnerioides. The differential response of S. gesnerioides to strigolactones may play an important role in the survival of the species. However, the compounds could be used as means of control if mixed cropping of cowpea and sorghum is adopted.
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