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J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol. 2012 Apr;39(4):641-7. doi: 10.1007/s10295-011-1057-x. Epub 2011 Nov 17.

Bacterial glyphosate resistance conferred by overexpression of an E. coli membrane efflux transporter.

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Monsanto Company, 700 Chesterfield Parkway North, St. Louis, MO 63017, USA.


Glyphosate herbicide-resistant crop plants, introduced commercially in 1994, now represent approximately 85% of the land area devoted to transgenic crops. Herbicide resistance in commercial glyphosate-resistant crops is due to expression of a variant form of a bacterial 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase with a significantly decreased binding affinity for glyphosate at the target site of the enzyme. As a result of widespread and recurrent glyphosate use, often as the only herbicide used for weed management, increasing numbers of weedy species have evolved resistance to glyphosate. Weed resistance is most often due to changes in herbicide translocation patterns, presumed to be through the activity of an as yet unidentified membrane transporter in plants. To provide insight into glyphosate resistance mechanisms and identify a potential glyphosate transporter, we screened Escherichia coli genomic DNA for alternate sources of glyphosate resistance genes. Our search identified a single non-target gene that, when overexpressed in E. coli and Pseudomonas, confers high-level glyphosate resistance. The gene, yhhS, encodes a predicted membrane transporter of the major facilitator superfamily involved in drug efflux. We report here that an alternative mode of glyphosate resistance in E. coli is due to reduced accumulation of glyphosate in cells that overexpress this membrane transporter and discuss the implications for potential alternative resistance mechanisms in other organisms such as plants.

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