Aldo-keto Reductase Metabolizes Glyphosate and Confers Glyphosate Resistance in Echinochloa colona

Lang Pan, Qin Yu, Heping Han, Lingfeng Mao, Alex Nyporko, Long Jiang Fan, Lianyang Bai, Stephen Powles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Web of Science)


Glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in the world, controls a wide range of plant species, mainly because plants have little capacity to metabolize (detoxify) glyphosate. Massive glyphosate use has led to world-wide evolution of glyphosate-resistant (GR) weed species, including the economically damaging grass weed Echinochloa colona An Australian population of Ecolona has evolved resistance to glyphosate with unknown mechanisms that do not involve the glyphosate target enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-P synthase. GR and glyphosate-susceptible (S) lines were isolated from this population and used for resistance gene discovery. RNA sequencing analysis and phenotype/genotype validation experiments revealed that one aldo-keto reductase (AKR) contig had higher expression and higher resultant AKR activity in GR than S plants. Two full-length AKR (EcAKR4-1 and EcAKR4-2) complementary DNA transcripts were cloned with identical sequences between the GR and S plants but were upregulated in the GR plants. Rice (Oryza sativa) calli and seedlings overexpressing EcAKR4-1 and displaying increased AKR activity were resistant to glyphosate. EcAKR4-1 expressed in Escherichia coli can metabolize glyphosate to produce aminomethylphosphonic acid and glyoxylate. Consistent with these results, GR Ecolona plants exhibited enhanced capacity for detoxifying glyphosate into aminomethylphosphonic acid and glyoxylate. Structural modeling predicted that glyphosate binds to EcAKR4-1 for oxidation, and metabolomics analysis of EcAKR4-1 transgenic rice seedlings revealed possible redox pathways involved in glyphosate metabolism. Our study provides direct experimental evidence of the evolution of a plant AKR that metabolizes glyphosate and thereby confers glyphosate resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1519-1534
Number of pages16
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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