Researchers Discover New Plant Language

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The Science Journal today reported: “Previously researchers found that various plant species talk among themselves- not with words, but by releasing chemical signals into the air that warn other trees about the possible insect attacks.   Add to that proof a study has discovered that different plant species can share genetic information at the molecular level. Researchers discovered this new communication mode by observing the relationship between dodder, a parasitic plant, a flowering plant Arabidopsis and tomato plants.

Dodder sucks nutrients out of its host with a haustorium that penetrates the host, transferring thousands of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules between the plants.   According to researchers, this exchange of mRNA suggest that parasitic plants are telling the host what to do. In the next phase, researchers will attempt to find out what plants are saying and whether the same relationship exists between bacteria and fungi. 

“The beauty of this discovery is that this mRNA could be the Achilles heel for parasites,” Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology and weed science, said in a press release. “This is all really exciting because there are so many potential implications surrounding this new information.”  Several studies in past also indicated that dodder uses chemical cues to find their host plants.

“The discovery of this novel form of inter-organism communication shows that this is happening a lot more than any one has previously realized,” the scientist said in a Virginia Tech press release. “Now that we have found that they are sharing all this information, the next question is, ‘What exactly are they telling each other?'”

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