An enzyme called DNA gyrase has been found to play an essential role in the formation of chloroplasts in plants. Chloroplasts play a vital role in photosynthesis by capturing sunlight and using it in conjunction with water and carbon dioxide gas to produce food for the plant.
It is thought that if a compound can be developed to interfere with the production of this enzyme then this could form the basis of a new type of selective herbicide.
It was known that the antibiotic ciprofloxacin targets DNA gyrase in bacteria, so by using this antibiotic on different mutations of the study plant arabidopsis thaliana it was possible to identify the pathway in the plants.
The team, led by Professor Tony Maxwell, found that one of the plants was resistant to ciprofloxacin and this was because it had a mutation in a very specific gene now known to encode the enzyme DNA gyrase.
Now the gene has been identified the team are looking for compounds (that are not medically approved antibiotics) that can also act on this pathway.
This research, which is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, also highlights another important benefit for using DNA gyrase as a target for the development of new herbicides. DNA gyrase is only present in plants and bacteria, and does not exist in animals.
DNA Gyrase is the Target for the Quinolone Drug Ciprofloxacin in Arabidopsis thaliana
Katherine M. Evans-Roberts, Lesley A. Mitchenall, Melisa K. Wall, Julie Leroux, Joshua S.
Mylne and Anthony Maxwell J. Biol. Chem. published online December 9, 2015