Secret of the carnivorous pitcher plant's slurp -- solved at last

Jan 28, 2008
Secret of the carnivorous pitcher plant's slurp -- solved at last
Scientists have deciphered the complex cocktail of digestive and antibacterial enzymes of the carnivorous pitcher plant.Courtesy of Tatsuro Hamada, Ishikawa Prefectural University, Japan

Splash! Ooch! Yum! And so another unsuspecting insect victim of Nepenthes alata (N. alata), commonly known as the carnivorous pitcher plant, falls victim to the digestive fluids at the bottom of the plant's famous cup-shaped leaf. For almost a century, scientists have sought the full chemical recipe for the pitcher plant's fluid.

Japanese scientists now report completely deciphering this complex cocktail of digestive and antibacterial enzymes. Their study is scheduled for the February issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research.

Unlike other plants that absorb nutrients from the soil, carnivorous plants growing in nutrient-poor soils have special organs to capture insects, digest them and absorb the nitrogen and phosphorous their environment sorely lacks. The identity of all the myriad proteins involved in this evolutionary marvel — some of which could have beneficial applications in medicine and agriculture — has been a mystery until now.

Tatsuro Hamada and Naoya Hatano used cutting-edge proteomic analysis to identify all of the components. They isolated and sequenced the proteins, then compared each with existing proteins to find structural matches.

Hamada and Hatano detected seven proteins that exist mainly in the pitcher fluid of N. alata — three of which can only be found in this species — including useful enzymes that may inhibit bacterial growth and rotting as the plant slowly digests its prey.

Source: ACS

Explore further: Europeans have unknowingly contributed to the spread of invasive plant species in the US

Related Stories

Message-bearing coffee foam taps printer mechanics

22 minutes ago

If vendors could choose the key marketing rule of thumb for the past decade, you might learn they did it with two words, Personalize This. From sneakers to t-shirts to news feeds to music services, market ...

Solar Impulse takes off on delayed Pacific flight

1 hour ago

The revolutionary Solar Impulse 2 aircraft took off early Monday for a flight over the Pacific Ocean, a spokeswoman said, the most ambitious leg of its quest to circumnavigate the globe powered only by the ...

SpaceX launch ends in failure, rocket erupts

2 hours ago

An unmanned SpaceX rocket carrying supplies and a first-of-its-kind docking port to the International Space Station broke apart Sunday shortly after liftoff. It was a severe blow to NASA, still reeling from ...

Recommended for you

Restored streams take 25 years or longer to recover

1 hour ago

New research has found that the number of plant species growing just next to restored streams can take up to 25 years to increase above those channelized during the timber floating era. This is according ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.