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Nature. 1998 May 21;393(6682):260-3.

Herbicide resistance caused by spontaneous mutation of the cytoskeletal protein tubulin.

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School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, Surrey, UK.


The dinitroaniline herbicides (such as trifluralin and oryzalin) have been developed for the selective control of weeds in arable crops. However, prolonged use of these chemicals has resulted in the selection of resistant biotypes of goosegrass, a major weed. These herbicides bind to the plant tubulin protein but not to mammalian tubulin. Here we show that the major alpha-tubulin gene of the resistant biotype has three base changes within the coding sequence. These base changes swap cytosine and thymine, most likely as the result of the spontaneous deamination of methylated cytosine. One of these base changes causes an amino-acid change in the protein: normal threonine at position 239 is changed to isoleucine. This position is close to the site of interaction between tubulin dimers in the microtubule protofilament. We show that the mutated gene is the cause of the herbicide resistance by using it to transform maize and confer resistance to dinitroaniline herbicides. Our results provide a molecular explanation for the resistance of goosegrass to dinitroanaline herbicides, a phenomenon that has arisen, and been selected for, as a result of repeated exposure to this class of herbicide.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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