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Protective Responses induced by herbicide safeners in wheat.

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Publication details

JournalEnvironmental and experimental botany
DatePublished - Apr 2012
Pages (from-to)93-99
Original languageEnglish


Safeners are agrochemicals which enhance tolerance to herbicides in cereals including wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) by elevating the expression of xenobiotic detoxifying enzymes, such as glutathione transferases (GSTs). When wheat plants were spray-treated with three safener chemistries, namely cloquintocet mexyl, mefenpyr diethyl and fenchlorazole ethyl, an apparently identical subset of GSTs derived from the tau, phi and lambda classes accumulated in the foliage. Treatment with the closely related mefenpyr diethyl and fenchlorazole ethyl enhanced seedling shoot growth, but this effect was not determined with the chemically unrelated cloquintocet mexyl. Focussing on cloquintocet mexyl, treatments were found to only give a transient induction of GSTs, with the period of elevation being dose dependent. Examining the role of safener metabolism in controlling these responses, it was determined that cloquintocet mexyl was rapidly hydrolysed to the respective carboxylic acid. Studies with cloquintocet showed that the acid was equally effective at inducing GSTs as the ester and appeared to be the active safener. Studies on the tissue induction of GSTs showed that whilst phi and tau class enzymes were induced in all tissues, the induction of the lambda enzymes was restricted to the meristems. To test the potential protective effects of cloquintocet mexyl in wheat on chemicals other than herbicides, seeds were pre-soaked in safeners prior to sowing on soil containing oil and a range of heavy metals. Whilst untreated seeds were unable to germinate on the contaminated soil, safener treatments resulted in seedlings briefly growing before succumbing to the pollutants. Our results show that safeners exert a range of protective and growth promoting activities in wheat that extend beyond enhancing tolerance to herbicides.


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