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FEBS J. 2011 Aug;278(16):2753-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08214.x. Epub 2011 Jun 28.

Molecular basis of glyphosate resistance-different approaches through protein engineering.

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Dipartimento di Biotecnologie e Scienze Molecolari, Università degli Studi dell'Insubria, Varese, Italy.


Glyphosate (N-phosphonomethyl-glycine) is the most widely used herbicide in the world: glyphosate-based formulations exhibit broad-spectrum herbicidal activity with minimal human and environmental toxicity. The extraordinary success of this simple, small molecule is mainly attributable to the high specificity of glyphosate for the plant enzyme enolpyruvyl shikimate-3-phosphate synthase in the shikimate pathway, leading to the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids. Starting in 1996, transgenic glyphosate-resistant plants were introduced, thus allowing application of the herbicide to the crop (post-emergence) to remove emerged weeds without crop damage. This review focuses on mechanisms of resistance to glyphosate as obtained through natural diversity, the gene-shuffling approach to molecular evolution, and a rational, structure-based approach to protein engineering. In addition, we offer a rationale for the means by which the modifications made have had their intended effect.

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