2-Methylindole-3-acetic acid (2-Me-IAA) is a known auxin, but its 2-ethyl homologue has been considered inactive. Here we show that the compound previously bioassayed as ‘2-ethylindole-3-acetic acid’ (2-Et-IAA) was, in fact, 3-(3-methylindol-2-yl)propionic acid. The proper 2-Et-IAA and its 2-(n-propyl) homologue (2-Pr-IAA) are prepared, unambiguously characterized, and their auxin activity is demonstrated in the Avena coleoptile-section straight-growth test. Their half-optimal concentrations are approximately the same as for 2-Me-IAA (2 × 10−5mol L−1), and hence about ten times larger than for unsubstituted indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) and its derivatives alkylated in positions 4, 5, 6 or 7. The optimal response elicited by 2-Et-IAA and 2-Pr-IAA is about half that observed for 2-Me-IAA. These characteristics place the three 2-alkyl-IAAs along the borderline between the classes of strong and weak auxins, thus corroborating the results of interaction similarity analysis, a mathematical approach based on the capability of auxin molecules to participate in non-bonding interactions with a generalized receptor protein. X-ray diffraction analysis shows no explicit structural features to be blamed for the decrease in auxin activity caused by attaching a 2-alkyl substituent to the IAA molecule; sterical interference of the 3-CH2COOH group and the 2-alkyl moiety is barely recognizable in the crystalline state. Quantum-chemical calculations and molecular dynamics simulations suggest that 2-alkyl-IAAs, in the absence of crystal-packing restraints, prefer conformations with the CH2-COOH bond tilted to the heterocyclic ring system. Substantially higher conformational energy (and hence lower abundance) is predicted for planar conformers which were previously shown to prevail for IAA and many of its derivatives substituted in the benzene moiety of the indole nucleus. This shift in the rotational preferences of the -CH2COOH moiety may be one of the reasons for the reduced plant-growth promoting activity of 2-alkyl-IAAs.
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Antolić, S., Dolušić, E., Kožić, E.K. et al. Auxin activity and molecular structure of 2-alkylindole-3-acetic acids. Plant Growth Regulation 39, 235–252 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022894914226
- 2-Ethylindole-3-acetic acid
- 2-Propylindole-3-acetic acid
- Conformational analysis
- Indole-3-acetic acid
- X-ray crystallography