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Molecular Basis for the Herbicide Resistance of Roundup Ready Crops

Todd Funke, Huijong Han, Martha L. Healy-Fried, Markus Fischer and Ernst Schönbrunn
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 103, No. 35 (Aug. 29, 2006), pp. 13010-13015
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30050705
Page Count: 6
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Molecular Basis for the Herbicide Resistance of Roundup Ready Crops
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Abstract

The engineering of transgenic crops resistant to the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate has greatly improved agricultural efficiency worldwide. Glyphosate-based herbicides, such as Roundup, target the shikimate pathway enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate 3-phosphate (EPSP) synthase, the functionality of which is absolutely required for the survival of plants. Roundup Ready plants carry the gene coding for a glyphosate-insensitive form of this enzyme, obtained from Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4. Once incorporated into the plant genome, the gene product, CP4 EPSP synthase, confers crop resistance to glyphosate. Although widely used, the molecular basis for this glyphosate-resistance has remained obscure. We generated a synthetic gene coding for CP4 EPSP synthase and characterized the enzyme using kinetics and crystallography. The CP4 enzyme has unexpected kinetic and structural properties that render it unique among the known EPSP synthases. Glyphosate binds to the CP4 EPSP synthase in a condensed, noninhibitory conformation. Glyphosate sensitivity can be restored through a single-site mutation in the active site (Ala-100Gly), allowing glyphosate to bind in its extended, inhibitory conformation.

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