The Metabolites of the Herbicide L-Phosphinothricin (Glufosinate) (Identification, Stability, and Mobility in Transgenic, Herbicide-Resistant, and Untransformed Plants)

Plant Physiol. 1994 May;105(1):159-166. doi: 10.1104/pp.105.1.159.


The metabolism of the herbicide L-phosphinothricin (L-Pt) was analyzed in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), and carrot (Daucus carota). In transgenic, Pt-resistant plants expressing the Pt-N-acetyltransferase gene (pat), L-Pt was acetylated, resulting in two forms of N-acetyl-Pt (ac-Pt). In transgenic plants expressing only low pat-encoded acetylating activity as well as in genetically unmodified plants, three metabolic compounds 4-methylphosphinico-2-oxo-butanoic acid, 3-methylphosphinico-propanoic acid (MPP), and 4-methylphosphinico-2-hydroxy-butanoic acid (MHB) were identified. Hence, the transgene-encoded acetylation of L-Pt competes with a plant-specific degradation. The compounds MPP, MHB, and ac-Pt were found to be the final, stable products of the plant's metabolic pathways. The mobility of these stable compounds in the plant was investigated: L-Pt as well as the derived metabolites were found to be preferentially transported to the upper regions of the plant.