A Femtomolar-Range Suicide Germination Stimulant for the Parasitic Plant Striga hermonthica

Daisuke Uraguchi presents the joint effort of several research groups towards the synthesis of a femtomolar-range suicide germination stimulant.

Striga hermonthica (Striga), a parasitic plant commonly called “Witchweed”, represents a major threat to food security in Africa; however, despite its scale, the problem is not well recognized by the general public. Striga is an obligate root hemiparasitic plant that makes a host plant wither. Although tiny Striga seeds are difficult to remove directly from the soil in order to protect crops, they can be killed by inducing their germination in the absence of host plants, which is known as a suicide germination strategy. Since the strigolactones (SLs), a group of a plant hormones produced by host plant roots, were discovered as germination stimulants of Striga in 1966, they have been attractive lead molecules for designing Striga suicide germinators and major efforts have been made to develop synthetic SLs by modifying their structures. However, none has had the high potency, target (plant) selectivity and low synthetic costs required for further development. An interdisciplinary team led by researchers at Nagoya University (Japan) has tackled the Striga infection problem and found a highly potent SL mimic as a candidate of an ideal suicide germination stimulant.

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