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The Strigolactone Germination Stimulants Of The Plant-Parasitic Striga And Orobanche Spp. Are Derived From The Carotenoid Pathway

Radoslava Matusova, Kumkum Rani, Francel W.A. Verstappen, Maurice C.R. Franssen, Michael H. Beale, Harro J. Bouwmeester

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Abstract The seeds of parasitic plants of the genera Striga and Orobanche will only germinate after induction by a chemical signal exuded from the roots of their host. Up to now, several of these germination stimulants have been isolated and identified in the root exudates of a series of host plants of both Orobanche and Striga spp. In most cases, the compounds were shown to be isoprenoid and belong to one chemical class, collectively called the strigolactones, and suggested by many authors to be sesquiterpene lactones. However, this classification was never proven; hence, the biosynthetic pathways of the germination stimulants are unknown. We have used carotenoid mutants of maize (Zea mays) and inhibitors of isoprenoid pathways on maize, cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and assessed the effects on the root exudate-induced germination of Striga hermonthica and Orobanche crenata. Here, we show that for these three host and two parasitic plant species, the strigolactone germination stimulants are derived from the carotenoid pathway. Furthermore, we hypothesize how the germination stimulants are formed. We also discuss this finding as an explanation for some phenomena that have been observed for the host-parasitic plant interaction, such as the effect of mycorrhiza on S. hermonthica infestation.