It seems that plants are able to emit animal-like signals when they are in stressful situations. A study conducted by researchers from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology offers insight into how plants respond to stress even though they do not have a central nervous system.
Researchers have discovered that plants used the same compound that animals use. This happens when the plants are stressed such as when they are faced with extreme temperatures, drought, acid soils, salinity and viruses. However instead of using neurons like animals do plants use cell-to-cell transmission since they do not have a nervous system. The paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.
It was already a known fact that under stress plants produce gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, which are animal neurotransmitter. The lead author of the study associate professor Matthew Gilliham from the Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine remarked:
But it was not known whether GABA was a signal in plants. We’ve discovered that plants bind GABA in a similar way to animals, resulting in electrical signals that ultimately regulate plant growth when a plant is exposed to a stressful environment.”
Professor Stephen Tyerman, the co-author of the study, believes that if they discover how plants employ GABA as a stress signal they will be able to devise a new tool which will enable them to breed crops that can handle stress better and thus this will aid food insecurity.
Most food shortages across the planet are caused by the stresses which crops are faced with. So researchers believe that the findings of their study can help them develop technologies which will make crops resist viruses.
Dr. Sunita Ramesh remarked that the study raises questions regarding how GABA was viewed as a messenger in both animals and plants. It seems that GABA has evolved in both fields separately, according to him.
Besides the fact that the study shows how plants have evolved and the fact that it can help scientists develop more resilient crops researchers believe that it can also explain how certain drugs which are derived from plants are efficient on humans when it comes to anti-epileptics and sedatives.
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