The discovery of novel auxin transport inhibitors by molecular modeling and three-dimensional pattern analysis

Mark G. Bures, Candace Black-Schaefer, Gary Gardner

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23 Scopus citations


Molecular modeling techniques and three-dimensional (3D) pattern analysis have been used to investigate the chemical and steric properties of compounds that inhibit transport of the plant hormone auxin. These compounds bind to a specific site on the plant plasma membrane characterized by its affinity for the herbicide N-1-naphthylphthalamic acid (NPA). A 3D model was derived from critical features of a set of ligands for the NPA receptor, a suggested binding conformation is proposed, and implications for the topographical features of the NPA receptor are discussed. This model, along with 3D structural analysis techniques, was then used to search the Abbott corporate database of chemical structures. Of the 467 compounds that satisfied the criteria of the model, 77 representative molecules were evaluated for their ability to compete for the binding of [3H]NPA to corn microsomal membranes. Nineteen showed activity that ranged from 16 to 85% of the maximum NPA binding. Four of the most active of these, representing chemical classes not included in the original compound set, were also found to inhibit polar auxin transport through corn coleoptile sections. Thus, this study demonstrates that 3D analysis techniques can identify active, novel ligands for biochemical target sites with concomitant physiological activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-334
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Computer-Aided Molecular Design
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1991


  • N-1-Naphthylphthalamic acid
  • NPA receptor
  • Plant growth regulators
  • Three-dimensional database searching


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