Coevolution of resistance to PPO inhibitors in waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus) and Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri)

Kathryn J. Lillie, Darci A. Giacomini, Jonathan D. Green, Patrick J. Tranel

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The first case of evolved protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO)-inhibitor resistance was observed in 2001 in common waterhemp [Amaranthus tuberculatus (Moq.) Sauer var. rudis (Sauer) Costea and Tardif]. This resistance in A. tuberculatus is most commonly conferred by deletion of the amino acid glycine at the 210th position (ΔGly-210) of the PPO enzyme (PPO2) encoded by PPX2. In a field in Kentucky in 2015, inadequate control of Amaranthus plants was observed following application of a PPO inhibitor. Morphological observations indicated that survivors included both A. tuberculatus and Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri S. Watson). Research was conducted to confirm species identities and resistance and then to determine whether resistance evolved independently in the two species or via hybridization. Results from a quantitative PCR assay based on the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer confirmed that both A. tuberculatus and A. palmeri coexisted in the field. The mutation conferring ΔGly-210 in PPO2 was identified in both species; phylogenetic analysis of a region of PPX2, however, indicated that the mutation evolved independently in the two species. Genotyping of greenhouse-grown plants that survived lactofen indicated that all A. tuberculatus survivors, but only a third of A. palmeri survivors, contained the ΔGly-210 mutation. Consequently, A. palmeri plants were evaluated for the presence of an arginine to glycine or methionine substitution at position 128 of PPO2 (Arg-128-Gly and Arg-128-Met). The Arg-128-Gly substitution was found to account for resistance that was not accounted for by the ΔGly-210 mutation in plants from the A. palmeri population. Results from this study provide a modern-day example of both parallel and convergent evolution occurring within a single field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-526
Number of pages6
JournalWeed Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Convergent evolution
  • herbicide resistance
  • parallel evolution
  • protoporphyrinogen oxidase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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