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Title: Karrikin  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Plant hormone, Plant peptide hormone, Ethylene, Salicylic acid
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Chemical structures of the karrikins

Karrikins are a group of plant growth regulators of the butenolide class found in the smoke of burning plant material.[1] For many years scientists have known that smoke from forest fires had the ability to stimulate the germination of seeds.[2] In 2004, after studying the thousands of chemical compounds found in smoke, it was discovered that a series of butenolides were responsible for this effect.[3] Karrikins bind to receptor protein KAI2 on seeds to stimulate germination.[4][5] The relation of seeds' response to karrikins is theorized to be an evolutionary adaptation in response to wildfires.[4][5] Currently, there are four known karrikins which are designated KAR1, KAR2, KAR3,and KAR4.


Though it is clear that karrikins are found in the smoke of burning plant material, there are competing theories about how they are formed. One hypothesis is that they are formed by Maillard reactions between carbohydrates and amino acids.[6] Another suggests that they are derived from cellulose.[2][7]


A member of the research team looking at these compounds, David Nelson, consulted a professor of Linguistics at University of Western Australia, who advised that the first recorded Noongar word for 'smoke' from the Perth area in the 1830s, is 'karrik'. This led to these compounds being named karrikins.[2]


  1. ^ Chiwocha, Sheila D. S.; Dixon, Kingsley W.; Flematti, Gavin R.; Ghisalberti, Emilio L.; Merritt, David J.; Nelson, David C.; Riseborough, Julie-Anne M.; Smith, Steven M.; Stevens, Jason C. (2009). "Karrikins: A new family of plant growth regulators in smoke". Plant Science 177 (4): 252–256.  
  2. ^ a b c Bethany Halford (2010). "Smoke Signals".  
  3. ^ Flematti GR, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW, Trengove RD (2004). "A compound from smoke that promotes seed germination".  
  4. ^ a b "Smoke signals: How burning plants tell seeds to rise from the ashes". Salik researchers. Salk Institute for Biological Studies. April 29, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-30. 
  5. ^ a b Guo, Y.; Zheng, Z.; La Clair, J.J.; Chory, J.; Noel J.P. (2013). "Smoke-derived karrikin perception by the α/β-hydrolase KAI2 from Arabidopsis".  
  6. ^ Light, Marnie E.; Burger, Barend V.; van Staden, Johannes (2005). "Formation of a Seed Germination Promoter from Carbohydrates and Amino Acids". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53 (15): 5936–5942.  
  7. ^ Flematti, Gavin R.; Ghisalberti, Emilio L.; Dixon, Kinglsey W.; Trengove, Robert D. (2004). "Molecular weight of a germination-enhancing compound in smoke". Plant and Soil 263 (1–2): 1–4.  

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