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The evolution of resistant weed populations in response to intensive herbicide selection pressure is a global issue. Resistance to post-emergence herbicides is widespread, whereas soil-applied pre-emergence herbicides can often remain effective. For example, in Australia pyroxasulfone is a new pre-emergence soil-applied herbicide which provides control of Lolium rigidum populations resistant to multiple post-emergence herbicide modes of action. A fundamental knowledge of the genetic basis of metabolic resistance in weeds is important for understanding plant evolution pathways under herbicide selection and sustaining long-term weed resistance management. In this study we define the mechanistic basis of resistance to pyroxasulfone in a L. rigidum population. TLC provides evidence that pyroxasulfone resistance is metabolism-based with approximately 88% of parental [14C]-labelled pyroxasulfone metabolized in resistant plants 24 h after the herbicide treatment. HPLC-MS allowed identification of several metabolites of pyroxasulfone formed via a glutathione (GSH) conjugation pathway in pyroxasulfone-resistant L. rigidum plants. However, the initial pyroxasulfone-glutathione conjugate was not found likely due to its labile nature. The observed constitutive over-expression from six to nine-fold of two putative resistance-endowing GST genes was associated with the pyroxasulfone resistance phenotype. The most logical conclusion, based on the data thus far available, is that rapid detoxification of pyroxasulfone mediates pyroxasulfone resistance in L. rigidum plants. Future research is warranted to confirm the hypothesis advanced by this study of rapid pyroxasulfone metabolism due to GSH conjugation mediated by GST over-expressed in pyroxasulfone-resistant plants which similarly leads to the production of distinctive GSH-pyroxasulfone metabolites in L. rigidum and wheat.
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