Crop Biotech Update

Research Team Discovers How Plants Defend their Territory with Toxic Substances

November 11, 2015

It has been known for decades that plants produce and release chemical substances to fight their neighbors, but it has remained unclear how these compounds act on other plants. A study conducted by German and French scientists shows that one class of plant toxins slows down the development of competing plants by specifically acting on the structure of their genome.

For decades, plants have employed allelochemicals, toxic compounds that can inhibit growth and development of other plants. This chemical warfare, referred to as ‘allelopathy', has been known for a long time, but for the first time, the molecular mechanism of such a ‘territorial behavior' of plants was understood. The scientists investigated the role of a specific class of plant secondary metabolites, the cyclic hydroxamic acids DIBOA and DIMBOA, released by several grass species. They found that plant toxins block histone deacetylases of neighboring plants and impact their growth negatively.

For more information about this research, read the news article at the Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology website.