Plants choose ammunition carefully

Sep 03, 2009

Plants are anything but as defenceless as they might seem. Various plant hormones work together to specifically fend off attacks. Dutch researcher Antonio Leon-Reyes has now shown how these hormones cooperate. By 'consulting' with each other plant hormones determine which defence mechanism they shall set in motion.

Leon-Reyes investigated how three plant hormones - (SA), jasmonic acid (JA) and ethylene (ET) - cooperate with each other to initiate the correct defence response. The biologist used the model plant Arabidopsis thalania (thale cress) to analyse the communication lines between hormones. He discovered that JA is under the control of SA but if JA and ET cooperate then JA no longer 'listens' to SA.

The right defence

Plants are confronted with various external attacks. , bacteria, viruses and , such as and , can inflict serious damage on a plant. The three different hormones all respond to these attacks in their own way. SA ensures that pathogens feeding on living plant tissue are tackled, whereas JA and ET tackle pathogens that live on dead tissue and suppress feeding by insects.

Switching on the defence mechanism requires a lot of energy from the plant and can go to the cost of growth and reproduction. It is therefore vital that the plant only initiates the defence mechanisms required. Leon-Reyes discovered that if the SA response was activated just before or at the same time as the JA response, the defence mechanisms regulated by JA are suppressed. Yet if the JA response was activated at the same time as the ET response then SA could no longer suppress JA.

Each year billions of euros are spent on to control diseases and plagues. Leon-Reyes's discoveries could make an important contribution to new crop protection methods. His research was part of Corné Pieterse's research project. Pieterse received a Vici grant in 2004 from NWO's Innovational Research Incentives Scheme for his research into the self-defence mechanisms of plants.

Source: NWO

Explore further: Scientists discover RNA modifications in some unexpected places

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Cry for help' gene identified in plants

Jan 18, 2006

A genetic mechanism that enables corn plants to "cry for help" and attract beneficial insects has been clarified by scientists from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland and the Max Planck Institute for ...

Agent that triggers immune response in plants is uncovered

Oct 04, 2007

Although plants lack humans' T cells and other immune-function cells to signal and fight infection, scientists have known for more than 100 years that plants still somehow signal that they have been attacked in order to trigger ...

Insects use plant like a telephone

Apr 23, 2008

Dutch ecologist Roxina Soler and her colleagues have discovered that subterranean and aboveground herbivorous insects can communicate with each other by using plants as telephones. Subterranean insects issue chemical warning ...

Recommended for you

Healthy humans make nice homes for viruses

5 hours ago

The same viruses that make us sick can take up residence in and on the human body without provoking a sneeze, cough or other troublesome symptom, according to new research at Washington University School ...

Unraveling cell division

12 hours ago

CRG researchers shed new light on mitosis. The study published in the Journal of Cell Biology describes how Topo 2 disentangles DNA molecules and is essential for proper cell division

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kerry
not rated yet Sep 03, 2009
Isn't life awesome?