The chemical compound 'Heatin' stimulates hypocotyl elongation and interferes with the Arabidopsis NIT1-subfamily of nitrilases

Plant J. 2021 Jun;106(6):1523-1540. doi: 10.1111/tpj.15250. Epub 2021 May 6.


Temperature passively affects biological processes involved in plant growth. Therefore, it is challenging to study the dedicated temperature signalling pathways that orchestrate thermomorphogenesis, a suite of elongation growth-based adaptations that enhance leaf-cooling capacity. We screened a chemical library for compounds that restored hypocotyl elongation in the pif4-2-deficient mutant background at warm temperature conditions in Arabidopsis thaliana to identify modulators of thermomorphogenesis. The small aromatic compound 'Heatin', containing 1-iminomethyl-2-naphthol as a pharmacophore, was selected as an enhancer of elongation growth. We show that ARABIDOPSIS ALDEHYDE OXIDASES redundantly contribute to Heatin-mediated hypocotyl elongation. Following a chemical proteomics approach, the members of the NITRILASE1-subfamily of auxin biosynthesis enzymes were identified among the molecular targets of Heatin. Our data reveal that nitrilases are involved in promotion of hypocotyl elongation in response to high temperature and Heatin-mediated hypocotyl elongation requires the NITRILASE1-subfamily members, NIT1 and NIT2. Heatin inhibits NIT1-subfamily enzymatic activity in vitro and the application of Heatin accordingly results in the accumulation of NIT1-subfamily substrate indole-3-acetonitrile in vivo. However, levels of the NIT1-subfamily product, bioactive auxin (indole-3-acetic acid), were also significantly increased. It is likely that the stimulation of hypocotyl elongation by Heatin might be independent of its observed interaction with NITRILASE1-subfamily members. However, nitrilases may contribute to the Heatin response by stimulating indole-3-acetic acid biosynthesis in an indirect way. Heatin and its functional analogues present novel chemical entities for studying auxin biology.

Keywords: 1-iminomethyl-2-naphthol; Arabidopsis; Heatin; IAN; NIT1-subfamily; PIF4; aldehyde oxidase; chemical genetics; indole-3-acetonitrile; nitrilases; thermomorphogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Oxidase / genetics
  • Aldehyde Oxidase / metabolism
  • Aminohydrolases / genetics
  • Aminohydrolases / metabolism*
  • Apomorphine / analogs & derivatives
  • Apomorphine / pharmacology
  • Arabidopsis / drug effects*
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / drug effects*
  • Herbicides / pharmacology
  • Hypocotyl / drug effects*
  • Hypocotyl / growth & development
  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • Molecular Structure
  • Picloram / pharmacology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Transcriptome / drug effects


  • 10,11-dihydroxy-N-n-propylnorapomorphine
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Herbicides
  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • AAO1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Aldehyde Oxidase
  • Aminohydrolases
  • nitrilase
  • Apomorphine
  • Picloram