PNAS published Uli Hammes collaboration with Lindy Abbas and Jiri Friml on the mode of action of the auxin transport inhibitor NPA.

Naphthylphthalamic acid associates with and inhibits PIN auxin transporters.

PNAS January 5, 2021 118 (1) e2020857118. Link

Lindy Abas, Martina Kolb, Johannes Stadlmann, Dorina P. Janacek,  Kristina Lukic, Claus Schwechheimer,  Leonid A. Sazanov, Lukas Mach, Jirí Friml, and Ulrich Z. Hammes (2021).

N-1-naphthylphthalamic acid (NPA) is a key inhibitor of directional (polar) transport of the hormone auxin in plants. For decades, it has been a pivotal tool in elucidating the unique polar auxin transport-based processes underlying plant growth and development. Its exact mode of action has long been sought after and is still being debated, with prevailing mechanistic schemes describing only indirect connections between NPA and the main transporters responsible for directional transport, namely PIN auxin exporters. Here we present data supporting a model in which NPA associates with PINs in a more direct manner than hitherto postulated. We show that NPA inhibits PIN activity in a heterologous oocyte system and that expression of NPA-sensitive PINs in plant, yeast, and oocyte membranes leads to specific saturable NPA binding. We thus propose that PINs are a bona fide NPA target. This offers a straightforward molecular basis for NPA inhibition of PIN-dependent auxin transport and a logical parsimonious explanation for the known physiological effects of NPA on plant growth, as well as an alternative hypothesis to interpret past and future results. We also introduce PIN dimerization and describe an effect of NPA on this, suggesting that NPA binding could be exploited to gain insights into structural aspects of PINs related to their transport mechanism.