Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants use circadian rhythms to prepare for battle with insects

14.02.2012
Rice University study: Plants make predawn preparations to fend off hungry caterpillars

In a study of the molecular underpinnings of plants' pest resistance, Rice University biologists have shown that plants both anticipate daytime raids by hungry insects and make sophisticated preparations to fend them off.

"When you walk past plants, they don't look like they're doing anything," said Janet Braam, an investigator on the new study, which appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "It's intriguing to see all of this activity down at the genetic level. It's like watching a besieged fortress go on full alert."

Braam, professor and chair of Rice's Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, said scientists have long known that plants have an internal clock that allows them to measure time regardless of light conditions. For example, some plants that track the sun with their leaves during the day are known to "reset" their leaves at night and move them back toward the east in anticipation of sunrise.

In recent years, scientists have begun to apply powerful genetic tools to the study of plant circadian rhythms. Researchers have found that as many as one-third of the genes in Arabidopsis thaliana -- a widely studied species in plant biology -- are activated by the circadian cycle. Rice biochemist Michael Covington found that some of these circadian-regulated genes were also connected to wounding responses.

"We wondered whether some of these circadian-regulated genes might allow plants to anticipate attacks from insects, in much the same way that they anticipate the sunrise," said Covington, now at the University of California, Davis.

Danielle Goodspeed, a graduate student in biochemistry and cell biology, designed a clever experiment to answer the question. She used 12-hour light cycles to entrain the circadian clocks of both Arabidopsis plants and cabbage loopers, a type of caterpillar that eats Arabidopsis. Half of the plants were placed with caterpillars on a regular day-night cycle, and the other half were placed with "out-of-phase" caterpillars whose internal clocks were set to daytime mode during the hours that the plants were in nighttime mode.

"We found that the plants whose clocks were in phase with the insects were relatively resistant, whereas the plants whose clocks were out of phase were decimated by the insects feeding on them," Goodspeed said.

Wassim Chehab, a Rice faculty fellow in biochemistry and cell biology, helped Goodspeed design a follow-up experiment to understand how plants used their internal clocks to resist insect attacks. Chehab and Goodspeed examined the accumulation of the hormone jasmonate, which plants use to regulate the production of metabolites that interfere with insect digestion.

They found that Arabidopsis uses its circadian clock to increase jasmonate production during the day, when insects like cabbage loopers feed the most. They also found that the plants used their internal clocks to regulate the production of other chemical defenses, including those that protect against bacterial infections.

"Jasmonate defenses are employed by virtually all plants, including tomatoes, rice and corn," Chehab said. "Understanding how plants regulate these hormones could be important for understanding why some pests are more damaging than others, and it could help suggest new strategies for insect resistance."

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and Rice University. Additional co-authors include Rice undergraduate Amelia Min-Venditti.

VIDEO is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9IdZb3z7Jw

A copy of the PNAS paper is available at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/07/1116368109.abstract

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is known for its "unconventional wisdom." With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 4 for "best value" among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to www.rice.edu/nationalmedia/Rice.pdf.

Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rice.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility
14.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

nachricht Guardians of the Gate
14.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>