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Pest Manag Sci. 2012 Apr;68(4):494-504. doi: 10.1002/ps.2300. Epub 2011 Nov 10.

Physionomics and metabolomics-two key approaches in herbicidal mode of action discovery.

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BASF Agricultural Centre Limburgerhof, Limburgerhof, Germany.



For novel herbicides identified in greenhouse screens, efficient research is important to discover and chemically optimise new leads with new modes of action (MoAs).


The metabolic and physiological response pattern to a herbicide can be viewed as the result of changes elicited in the molecular and biochemical process chain. These response patterns are diagnostic of a herbicide's MoA. At the starting point of MoA characterisation, an array of bioassays is used for comprehensive physiological profiling of herbicide effects. This physionomics approach enables discrimination between known, novel or multiple MoAs of a compound and provides a first clue to a new MoA. Metabolic profiling is performed with the use of treated Lemna paucicostata plants. After plant extraction and chromatography and mass spectrometry, changes in levels of approximately 200 identified and 300 unknown analytes are quantified. Check for known MoA assignment is performed by multivariate statistical data analyses. Distinct metabolite changes, which can direct to an affected enzymatic step, are visualised in a biochemical pathway view. Subsequent target identification includes metabolite feeding and molecular, biochemical and microscopic methods.


The value of this cascade strategy is exemplified by new herbicides with MoAs in plastoquinone, auxin or very-long-chain fatty acid synthesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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