Herbivore-damaged plants give off volatile chemical 'scents' to warn neighbors

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.

In the wild, many species of animals, especially those with known predators, signal each other of imminent dangers using a variety of techniques, ranging from scent to sound. Now, thanks to multiple studies on the topic, we have reason to believe that plants, too, can sound an alarm under threat of an attack.

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."

Dr. Gen-ichiro Arimura, Professor at the Tokyo University of Science and one of the authors of the study

Their findings have recently been published in the journal Plant Physiology.

First, they exposed the plants to β-ocimene, a volatile organic compound often released by plants in response to attacks by herbivores like Spodoptera litura. Next, the researchers tried to determine the exact mechanism of action of volatile-chemical-activated plant defense.

The results were interesting-;defense traits were induced in Arabidopsis leaves, presumably through "epigenetic" mechanisms, which refer to gene regulation that occurs because of external environmental influences. In this case, the volatile chemicals released by the damaged plants enhanced histone acetylation and the expression of defense gene regulators, including the ethylene response factor genes "ERF8" and "ERF104". The team found a specific set of histone acetyltransferase enzymes (HAC1, HAC5, and HAM1) were responsible for the induction and maintenance of the anti-herbivore properties.

The researchers are ecstatic about their discovery of the role that epigenetics has to play in plant defense. According to them, the communication between plants via volatile compounds (known as the "talking plants" phenomenon) can potentially be applied to organic cultivation systems. This can increase the pest resistance of plants and effectively reduce our massive dependence on pesticides.

"The effective use of plants' natural survival strategies in production systems will bring us closer to the realization of a sustainable society that simultaneously solves environmental and food problems," concludes Dr. Arimura.

Source:
Journal reference:

Onosato, H., et al. (2022) Sustained defense response via volatile signaling and its epigenetic transcriptional regulation. Plant Physiology. doi.org/10.1093/plphys/kiac077.

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Tokyo University of Science. (2022, December 19). Herbivore-damaged plants give off volatile chemical 'scents' to warn neighbors. AZoLifeSciences. Retrieved on March 02, 2024 from https://www.azolifesciences.com/news/20220314/Herbivore-damaged-plants-give-off-volatile-chemical-scents-to-warn-neighbors.aspx.

  • MLA

    Tokyo University of Science. "Herbivore-damaged plants give off volatile chemical 'scents' to warn neighbors". AZoLifeSciences. 02 March 2024. <https://www.azolifesciences.com/news/20220314/Herbivore-damaged-plants-give-off-volatile-chemical-scents-to-warn-neighbors.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Tokyo University of Science. "Herbivore-damaged plants give off volatile chemical 'scents' to warn neighbors". AZoLifeSciences. https://www.azolifesciences.com/news/20220314/Herbivore-damaged-plants-give-off-volatile-chemical-scents-to-warn-neighbors.aspx. (accessed March 02, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Tokyo University of Science. 2022. Herbivore-damaged plants give off volatile chemical 'scents' to warn neighbors. AZoLifeSciences, viewed 02 March 2024, https://www.azolifesciences.com/news/20220314/Herbivore-damaged-plants-give-off-volatile-chemical-scents-to-warn-neighbors.aspx.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
Post a new comment
Post
Azthena logo

AZoM.com powered by Azthena AI

Your AI Assistant finding answers from trusted AZoM content

Your AI Powered Scientific Assistant

Hi, I'm Azthena, you can trust me to find commercial scientific answers from AZoNetwork.com.

A few things you need to know before we start. Please read and accept to continue.

  • Use of “Azthena” is subject to the terms and conditions of use as set out by OpenAI.
  • Content provided on any AZoNetwork sites are subject to the site Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • Large Language Models can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.

Great. Ask your question.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Researchers discover a significant health food ingredient