, Volume 156, Issue 5, pp 433–440 | Cite as

Inhibition of elongation growth by two sesquiterpene lactones isolated from Helianthus annuus L.

Possible molecular mechanism
  • Otmar Spring
  • Achim Hager


Two sesquiterpene lactones belonging to the germacranolides were isolated from the leaves and stems of Helianthus annuus L. Their formation in the plant is light-dependent. Both sesquiterpene lactones (SL) strongly inhibit indole-3-acetic acid (IAA)-induced elongation growth of Avena sativa L. coleoptile segments and Helianthus annuus L. hypocotyl segments. Both SL do not, however, inhibit acid-induced growth nor growth triggered by fusicoccin at all. In the presence of dithiothreitol (DTT), the inhibitory effect of SL in the Avena-segment-test can be completely neutralized. This can be attributed to the binding of DTT to both SL. Using thin-layer-chromatography it could be shown that the inhibitors build adducts with SH-rich compounds, e.g., cysteine, glutathione, mercapto-ethanol, and DTT, whose Rf-value significantly differs from those of the primary substances. If the coleoptile segments are first treated with an inhibitor and the inhibitor is subsequently washed out, close to normal elongation growth can be induced by adding an IAA-solution. If the segments are simultaneously treated with inhibitor and IAA, no notable growth can be initiated for an extended amount of time, after the removal of both substances and the anewed addition of IAA. Fusicoccin, however, can immediately neutralize the induced growth inhibition. The same irreversible inhibition is observed when 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) is used: If coleoptile segments are treated with an inhibitor plus 2,4-D or an inhibitor plus 3,5-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (3,5-D), respectively, IAA-induced growth after removal of the substances can only be observed by those coleoptiles which had previously been treated with the non-auxin, 3,5-D plus an inhibitor. Based on these results, a possible mechanism describing how the inhibitor functions is discussed. The binding of an auxin to an auxin receptor sets a SH-group free (possibly due to a change in the conformation of the receptor); a site is given to which the inhibitor can bind irreversibly (via a S-bond). The IAA-receptor-inhibitor-complex is then no longer able to initiate elongation growth. If auxin is not present, no lasting bond between the inhibitor and the receptor can occur, since the essential SH-group remains masked. The inhibitor can be washed out again. Consequently, the SL's have to be able to intervene at the beginning of the IAA-induced reaction sequence, while the following steps remain uninfluenced, i.e. namely, the active excretion of protons into the cell wall compartments, which is directly induced by fusicoccin and causes elongation growth.

Key words

Auxin receptor Elongation growth Helianthus Sesquiterpene lactone 



2,4-dichlorophenoxy-acetic acid


3,5-dichlorophenoxy-acetic acid






gibberellic acid


indole-3-acetic acid


2-(N-morpholino)-ethane sulfonic acid


sesquiterpene lactone(s)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Otmar Spring
    • 1
  • Achim Hager
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Biologie I der UniversitätTübingenFederal Republic of Germany

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