Non-specific effects of the CINNAMATE-4-HYDROXYLASE inhibitor piperonylic acid

El Houari I., Klíma P., Baekelandt A., Staswick P. E., Uzunova V., Del Genio C. I., Steenackers W., Dobrev P. I., Filepová R., Novák O., Napier R., Petrášek J., Inzé D., Boerjan W., Vanholme B.
PLANT JOURNAL 115: 470-479, 2023

Abstract: Chemical inhibitors are often implemented for the functional characterization of genes to overcome the limitations associated with genetic approaches. Although it is well established that the specificity of the compound is key to success of a pharmacological approach, off-target effects are often overlooked or simply neglected in a complex biological setting. Here we illustrate the cause and implications of such secondary effects by focusing on piperonylic acid (PA), an inhibitor of CINNAMATE-4-HYDROXYLASE (C4H) that is frequently used to investigate the involvement of lignin during plant growth and development. When supplied to plants, we found that PA is recognized as a substrate by GRETCHEN HAGEN 3.6 (GH3.6), an amido synthetase involved in the formation of the indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) conjugate IAA-Asp. By competing for the same enzyme, PA interferes with IAA conjugation, resulting in an increase in IAA concentrations in the plant. In line with the broad substrate specificity of the GH3 family of enzymes, treatment with PA increased not only IAA levels but also those of other GH3-conjugated phytohormones, namely jasmonic acid and salicylic acid. Finally, we found that interference with the endogenous function of GH3s potentially contributes to phenotypes previously observed upon PA treatment. We conclude that deregulation of phytohormone homeostasis by surrogate occupation of the conjugation machinery in the plant is likely a general phenomenon when using chemical inhibitors. Our results hereby provide a novel and important basis for future reference in studies using chemical inhibitors.
DOI: 10.1111/tpj.16237 IEB authors: Petre I. Dobrev, Roberta Filepová, Petr Klíma, Ondřej Novák, Jan Petrášek