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Plant Physiol, June 2001, Vol. 126, pp. 524-535

Flavonoids Act as Negative Regulators of Auxin Transport in Vivo in Arabidopsis1

Dana E. Brown, Aaron M. Rashotte, Angus S. Murphy,2 Jennifer Normanly, Brian W. Tague, Wendy A. Peer,2 Lincoln Taiz, and Gloria K. Muday*

Department of Biology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27109 (D.E.B., A.M.R., B.W.T., G.K.M.); Biology Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064 (A.S.M., W.A.P., L.T.); and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003 (J.N.)

Polar transport of the plant hormone auxin controls many aspects of plant growth and development. A number of synthetic compounds have been shown to block the process of auxin transport by inhibition of the auxin efflux carrier complex. These synthetic auxin transport inhibitors may act by mimicking endogenous molecules. Flavonoids, a class of secondary plant metabolic compounds, have been suggested to be auxin transport inhibitors based on their in vitro activity. The hypothesis that flavonoids regulate auxin transport in vivo was tested in Arabidopsis by comparing wild-type (WT) and transparent testa (tt4) plants with a mutation in the gene encoding the first enzyme in flavonoid biosynthesis, chalcone synthase. In a comparison between tt4 and WT plants, phenotypic differences were observed, including three times as many secondary inflorescence stems, reduced plant height, decreased stem diameter, and increased secondary root development. Growth of WT Arabidopsis plants on naringenin, a biosynthetic precursor to those flavonoids with auxin transport inhibitor activity in vitro, leads to a reduction in root growth and gravitropism, similar to the effects of synthetic auxin transport inhibitors. Analyses of auxin transport in the inflorescence and hypocotyl of independent tt4 alleles indicate that auxin transport is elevated in plants with a tt4 mutation. In hypocotyls of tt4, this elevated transport is reversed when flavonoids are synthesized by growth of plants on the flavonoid precursor, naringenin. These results are consistent with a role for flavonoids as endogenous regulators of auxin transport.


1 This work was supported by Sigma Xi (grant to D.E.B.), by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (grant no. NAG2 1203 to G.K.M.), by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration Specialized Center for Research and Training at North Carolina State University (grants to G.K.M. and A.M.R.), by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (grant no. 94-37100-0755 to A.S.M. and L.T.), and by the National Science Foundation (grant no. MCB-9870798 to J.N.). The Wake Forest University Research and Publications Fund supported the publication costs.

2 Present address: Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, 1165 Horticulture Building, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1165.

* Corresponding author; e-mail muday{at}wfu.edu; fax 336-758-6008.

© 2001 American Society of Plant Physiologists



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