Reference genes to study herbicide stress response in Lolium sp.: up-regulation of P450 genes in plants resistant to acetolactate-synthase inhibitors

PLoS One. 2013 May 16;8(5):e63576. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063576. Print 2013.


Variation in the expression of numerous genes is at the basis of plant response to environmental stresses. Non-target-site-based resistance to herbicides (NTSR), the major threat to grass weed chemical control, is governed by a subset of the genes involved in herbicide stress response. Quantitative PCR assays allowing reliable comparison of gene expression are thus key to identify genes governing NTSR. This work aimed at identifying a set of reference genes with a stable expression to be used as an internal standard for the normalisation of quantitative PCR data in studies investigating NTSR to herbicides inhibiting acetolactate synthase (ALS) in the major grass weed Lolium sp. Gene expression stability was assessed in plants resistant or sensitive to two ALS inhibitors, subjected or not to herbicide stress. Using three complementary approaches implemented in the programs BestKeeper, NormFinder and geNorm, cap-binding protein, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate-dehydrogenase and ubiquitin were identified as the most suitable reference genes. This reference gene set can probably be used to study herbicide response in other weed species. It was used to compare the expression of the genes encoding two herbicide target enzymes (ALS and acetyl-coenzyme A carboxylase) and five cytochromes P450 (CYP) with potential herbicide-degrading activity between plants resistant or sensitive to ALS inhibitors. Overall, herbicide application enhanced CYP gene expression. Constitutive up-regulation of all CYP genes observed in resistant plants compared to sensitive plants suggested enhanced secondary metabolism in the resistant plants. Comprehensive transcriptome studies associated to gene expression analyses using the reference gene set validated here are required to unravel NTSR genetic determinants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetolactate Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Acetolactate Synthase / metabolism
  • Herbicide Resistance / genetics
  • Herbicide Resistance / physiology
  • Lolium / drug effects*
  • Lolium / genetics
  • Lolium / metabolism*
  • Plant Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism


  • Plant Proteins
  • Acetolactate Synthase

Grant support

This work was supported by funding from Arvalis - Institut du Végétal ( to AD. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.