A naturally evolved mutation (Ser-59-Gly) in glutamine synthetase confers glufosinate resistance in plants

Glufosinate is an important and widely used non-selective herbicide active on a wide range of plant species.

Resistance evolution to glufosinate in weedy plant species (including the global weed Eleusine indica) is underway.

Here, we established the molecular basis of target-site glufosinate resistance in Eleusine indica. Full-length E. indica glutamine synthetase (GS) iso-genes (EiGS1-1, 1-2, and 1-3 and EiGS2) were cloned, and expression of EiGS1-1 and EiGS1-2 was higher than EiGS2. A novel point mutation resulting in a Ser-59-Gly substitution in EiGS1-1 was identified in glufosinate-resistant (R) plants. Rice calli and seedlings transformed with the mutant EiGS1-1 gene were resistant to glufosinate. Purified mutant EiGS1-1 expressed in yeast was more tolerant to glufosinate than the wild type (WT) variant. These transgenic results correlate with a more glufosinate-R GS in the crude tissue extract of R versus susceptible E. indica plants. Structural modelling of the mutant EiGS1-1 revealed that the Ser-59 is not directly involved in glufosinate binding but in contact with some important binding residues (e.g. Glu-297) and especially with Asp-56 that forms an intratoroidal contact interface. Importantly, the same Ser-59-Gly mutation was also found in geographically isolated glufosinate-R populations from Malaysia and China, suggesting parallel evolution of this resistance mutation.

Keywords: eleusine indica, glufosinate, glutamine synthetase, target-site mutation

Publication Year: 2021

Authors: Chun Zhang, Qin Yu, Heping Han, Chaojie Yu, Alex Nyporko, Xingshan Tian, Hugh Beckie, Stephen Powles

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