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Photodynamic herbicides: 1. Concept and phenomenology

Enzyme and Microbial Technology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0141-0229(84)90012-7
  • Herbicides
  • Mg-Porphyrin Accumulation
  • Protochlorophyllide Accumulation
  • Chlorophyll Biosynthetic Pathway
  • Photodynamic Effects
  • δ-Aminolaevulinic Acid
  • Agricultural Science
  • Chemistry
  • Design
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy


Abstract A new approach to the design of conceptually and phenomenologically new herbicides is described. It involves the joint utilization of tetrapyrrole precursors, such as δ-aminolaevulinic acid (a biodegradable amino acid) and activators of the chlorophyll biosynthetic pathway, such as 2,2′-dipyridyl, in order to induce treated plants to biosynthesize and accumulate massive amounts of tetrapyrrole intermediates of the chlorophyll biosynthetic pathway in the dark (i.e. at night). During the subsequent light period (daylight) the accumulated tetrapyrroles act as potent photodynamic sensitiziers, which in turn result in the death of susceptible plants in a matter of hours. We have therefore proposed to name herbicides that act via this mechanism as photodynamic herbicides, or more pictorially as laser herbicides. From a limited survey of agricultural plant and weed species it appears that photodynamic herbicides exhibit a very pronounced organ, age and species-dependent selectivity. For example, dicotyledonous weeds such as mustard, red-root pigweed, common purslane and lambsquarter are very susceptible while monocotyledonous plants such as corn, wheat, barley and oats are not. The biochemical basis of this selectivity seems to lie, among other things, in the rates of tetrapyrrole turnover and in a differential enhancement by the applied chemicals of the monovinyl and divinyl tetrapyrrole biosynthetic pathways in the various species. A survey of various groups of chemicals (herbicides and other selected biochemicals) that are likely to exhibit photodynamic herbicidal properties is currently under investigation.

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