Research highlights

Hope for herbicide resistant weeds

Whether you’re a casual gardener or large scale producer, weeds are a problem. And they’re becoming increasingly resistant to existing herbicides, posing a significant threat to agricultural production. Research conducted at LIMS and AgriBio, led by Dr Tatiana Soares da Costa, has identified inhibitors of lysine biosynthesis with an unexplored mode of binding that have herbicidal activity.  The findings, published in eLife, highlight the potential of lysine biosynthesis inhibition as a novel herbicide mode of action to address the global issue of herbicide-resistant weeds.

Debunking a long held chemistry practice

Dichloroiodobenzene is widely used to add chlorine to organic molecules, which adds value and complexity. For decades pyridine has been used as an additive to increase the reactivity of dichloroiodobenzene via a widely accepted mechanism. LIMS PhD student Tiffany Poynder and Professor Jason Dutton, with collaborators from La Trobe University and The University of Queensland, noticed that the proof for the activation of PhICl2 with pyridine had inconsistencies. Through careful experiments they have shown that there is no apparent effect on PhICl2. Their findings, published in Chemical Communications, will lead to a re-evaluation of how chlorination works. In turn this will enable the use of more efficient techniques.

New fluorescent materials?

The incorporation of boron into carbon ring systems, such as PAHs, has drawn a great deal of attention because it provides an avenue to develop new fluorescent materials for optoelectronics, including organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDS) or polymer-based sensors. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, a research team co-led by Associate Professor David Wilson at LIMS has succeeded in making an elusive anionic organoborane compound, which could lead to new materials with unique bonding or optical properties.

Measuring autophagy in cells & tissues

Autophagy is a key survival mechanism for cellular and tissue rejuvenation. Cells perform autophagy to remove toxic and damaged components and the disruption of this process can lead to disease. Dr Yuning Hong and PhD student Siyang Ding provide a comprehensive review on the design and working mechanisms of a fluorescence sensor in order to visualise, sense and measure autophagy activity in cells or tissues. The review, published in Chemical Society Reviews, will provide much needed information for those seeking to better understand the interplay between impaired autophagy and disease. Read more about their findings.

Cone snails & diabetic insulin

Cone snails are one of the deadliest creatures on earth but their toxins can be used for good. Research from Professor Brian Smith’s team at La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, in conjunction with an international team of researchers, has found insulin-like toxins within cone snails that could be used in the design of insulin therapeutics that may lead to better treatment of diabetes. Read more in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.