Combination of Synthetic Chemistry and Live-Cell Imaging Identified a Rapid Cell Division Inhibitor in Tobacco and Arabidopsis thaliana

Plant Cell Physiol. 2016 Nov;57(11):2255-2268. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcw140. Epub 2016 Aug 12.


Cell proliferation is crucial to the growth of multicellular organisms, and thus the proper control of cell division is important to prevent developmental arrest or overgrowth. Nevertheless, tools for controlling cell proliferation are still poor in plant. To develop novel tools, we focused on a specific compound family, triarylmethanes, whose members show various antiproliferative activities in animals. By combining organic chemistry to create novel and diverse compounds containing the triarylmethyl moiety and biological screens based on live-cell imaging of a fluorescently labeled tobacco Bright Yellow-2 (BY-2) culture cell line (Nicotiana tabacum), we isolated (3-furyl)diphenylmethane as a strong but partially reversible inhibitor of plant cell division. We also found that this agent had efficient antiproliferative activity in developing organs of Arabidopsis thaliana without causing secondary defects in cell morphology, and induced rapid cell division arrest independent of the cell cycle stage. Given that (3-furyl)diphenylmethane did not affect the growth of a human cell line (HeLa) and a budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), it should act specifically on plants. Taking our results together, we propose that the combination of desired chemical synthesis and detailed biological analysis is an effective tool to create novel drugs, and that (3-furyl)diphenylmethane is a specific antiproliferative agent for plants.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; Cell division inhibitor; Live-cell imaging; Organic chemistry; Tobacco BY-2 cell; Triarylmethane.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / cytology*
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / chemistry
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Division*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Chemistry Techniques, Synthetic / methods*
  • HeLa Cells
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Nicotiana / cytology*
  • Organ Specificity


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • diphenylmethane