Biotech Updates

Plant Defense Genes Provide Clues to Safener Protection in Sorghum

March 27, 2019

Researchers from the University of Illinois have identified the genes and metabolic pathways which are responsible for safener efficacy in grain sorghum. Safeners, serendipitously discovered in late 1940's are chemicals that selectively protect certain crops from damage.

The researchers' first step in understanding how safeners work is to look into what happens inside the cells of cereal crops when exposed to safeners. In previous trials with grain sorghum, the team noticed a massive increase in glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), enzymes that quickly detoxify herbicides and other foreign chemicals before they can cause damage.

The team used genome-wide association study. They grew 761 grain sorghum inbred lines in a greenhouse and compared plants treated with safener only, herbicide only, or both safener and herbicide. They found specific genes and gene regions that were switched on in the safener-treated plants, and they were genes that coded for two GSTs. Sorghum is also known to produce allelochemicals, including dhurrin, a chemical with a cyanide group. The research group also found that some genes involved in dhurrin synthesis and metabolism were triggered in response to safeners too.

For more details, read the news release from Illinois ACES.