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Epigenetics and plant psychology: They show “scents of alarm” ;)

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No wonder weeds can be hard to get rid of:

Animals often use highly specific signals to warn their herd about approaching predators. Surprisingly, similar behaviors are also observed among plants. Shedding more light on this phenomenon, Tokyo University of Science researchers have discovered one such mechanism. Using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system, the researchers have shown that herbivore-damaged plants give off volatile chemical “scents” that trigger epigenetic modifications in the defense genes of neighboring plants. These genes subsequently trigger anti-herbivore defense systems…

Prior studies have shown that when grown near mint plants, soybean and field mustard (Brassica rapa) plants display heightened defense properties against herbivore pests by activating defense genes in their leaves, as a result of “eavesdropping” on mint volatiles. Put simply, if mint leaves get damaged after a herbivore attack, the plants in their immediate vicinity respond by activating their anti-herbivore defense systems in response to the chemical signals released by the damaged mint plant. To understand this mechanism better, a team of researchers from multiple Japanese research institutes, including Tokyo University of Science, studied these responses in Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant used widely in biological studies.

“Surrounding undamaged plants exposed to odors emitted from plants eaten by pests can develop resistance to the pests. Although the induction of the expression of defense genes in odor-responsive plants is key to this resistance, the precise molecular mechanisms for turning the induced state on or off have not been understood. In this study, we hypothesized that histone acetylation, or the so-called epigenetic regulation, is involved in the phenomenon of resistance development,” explains Dr. Gen-ichiro Arimura, Professor at the Tokyo University of Science and one of the authors of the study.

Tokyo University of Science, “‘Scents’ of alarm: Volatile chemical signals from damaged plants warn neighbors about herbivore attacks” at ScienceDaily (March 10, 2022)

The paper requires a subscription.

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These responses have been known and fairly well understood for a long time. This study is just verifying the suspicion that epigenetic memory is responsible for plant communication and anticipation. We still don't know how the epigenetic memory is translated to motion or immune responses. The anticipation is the most interesting part... http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2021/03/darwin-and-pertz-and-quages.html http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2019/01/how-sweet-thy-voice.html polistra

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