The Herbicide Glyphosate

Biofactors. 1989 Mar;2(1):17-25.


Glyphosate has broad spectrum herbicidal activity against a wide range of annual and perennial weeds. The environmental properties of this herbicide such as its soil immobility, rapid soil inactivation and soil biodegradation are outstanding. This herbicide is practically non-toxic to non-plant life forms such as aquatic and avian species, animals and man. Metabolism studies with pure bacterial cultures indicate that glyphosate is metabolized to either aminomethylphosphonate and glyoxylate or sarcosine and phosphate in most bacteria. The enzyme C-P lyase, which catalyzes the cleavage of the carbon-phosphorus bond of phosphonates including glyphosate, appears to be complex, containing multiple subunits. Mode of action studies have demonstrated that glyphosate kills plants by inhibiting the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase, involved in the biosynthesis of aromatic compounds. The status of our understanding of these aspects of glyphosate is reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Glycine / pharmacology
  • Herbicides*
  • Plants / drug effects


  • Herbicides
  • glyphosate
  • Glycine