August 16, 2014
A mysterious communication language in plants has been discovered by a group of scientists, who say this may the way through which plants transfer energy between themselves.
Calling it an exchange of RNA, scientists say this new discovery reveals about a medium through which plants communicate with each other. Scientists believe discovery of this novel form of inter-organism communication can have greater role in agricultural applications.
Study lead author Jim Westwood said, “The discovery shows that this is happening a lot more than any one has previously realized.”
“Now that we have found that they are sharing all this information, the next question is What exactly are they telling each other,” said Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology and weed science at College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
For the study, the researchers took samples of tomato and strangle weed that attacks the vascular system of the host plants. After sequencing them, the researchers examined these tissue samples.
Despite knowing the attacking nature of strangle weeds, they were used in the experiment as the researchers believe they can keep a check on those weeds that are harmful.
“It is surprising for a number of reasons. The first being that if you think of a parasite as truly being a parasite, you wouldn’t expect to see movement of genetic material into the host – just the parasite sucking nutrients from the host,” Westwood said.
Explaining the findings, the researchers said the new communication language is something similar to specific words or commands that are exchanged between the plants.
Professor Julie Scholes, who was not associated with the study, said the parasitic plants such as broomrape and witch weed are serious threats for crops including the legumes.
“In addition to shedding new light on host-parasite communication, Westwood’s findings have exciting implications for the design of novel control strategies based on disrupting the mRNA information that the parasite uses to reprogram the host,” said Scholes, who works at the University of Sheffield, UK
The study was published in the journal Science.