Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants Can Recognize Their Siblings, and Researchers Have Discovered How

16.10.2009
Plants may not have eyes and ears, but they can recognize their siblings, and researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered how.

The ID system lies in the roots and the chemical cues they secrete.

The finding not only sheds light on the intriguing sensing system in plants, but also may have implications for agriculture and even home gardening.

The study, which is reported in the scientific journal Communicative & Integrative Biology, was led by Harsh Bais, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences at the University of Delaware.

Canadian researchers published in 2007 that sea rocket, a common seashore plant, can recognize its siblings -- plants grown from seeds from the same mother.

Susan Dudley, an evolutionary plant ecologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and her colleagues observed that when siblings are grown next to each other in the soil, they “play nice” and don't send out more roots to compete with one another.

However, the moment one of the plants is thrown in with strangers, it begins competing with them by rapidly growing more roots to take up the water and mineral nutrients in the soil.

Bais, who has conducted a variety of research on plant signaling systems, read Dudley's study and wanted to find the mechanism behind the sibling recognition.

“Plants have no visible sensory markers, and they can't run away from where they are planted,” Bais says. “It then becomes a search for more complex patterns of recognition.”

Working in his laboratory at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, a major center for life sciences research at UD, Bais and doctoral student Meredith Biedrzycki set up a study with wild populations of Arabidopsis thaliana.

They utilized wild populations to avoid issues with this common laboratory-bred species, which “always has cousins floating around in the lab,” Bais says.

In a series of experiments, young seedlings were exposed to liquid media containing the root secretions or “exudates” from siblings, from strangers (non-siblings), or only their own exudates.

The length of the longest lateral root and of the hypocotyl, the first leaf-like structure that forms on the plant, were measured.

Additionally, in one experiment, the root exudates were inhibited by sodium orthovanadate, which specifically blocks root secretions without imparting adverse growth effects on roots.

The exposure of plants to the root exudates of strangers induced greater lateral root formation than exposure of plants to sibling exudates. Stranger recognition was abolished upon treatment with the secretion inhibitor.

Biedrzycki did the painstaking laboratory research, rotating more than 3,000 plants involved in the study every day for seven consecutive days and documenting the root patterns.

“The research was very painstaking because Arabidopsis roots are nearly translucent when they are young and were also tangled when I removed them from plates, so measuring the roots took a great amount of patience,” Biedrzycki notes.

“This manuscript is very important for my research since the focus of my thesis project is understanding the biochemical mechanism behind root secretions,” she says. “This research has allowed me to probe the natural mechanism of kin recognition and root secretion.”

The study was replicated by Dudley's lab in Canada, with similar results.

Strangers planted next to each other are often shorter, Bais notes, because so much of their energy is directed at root growth.

Because siblings aren't competing against each other, their roots are often much shallower.

Bais says he and his colleagues also have noticed that as sibling plants grow next to each other, their leaves often will touch and intertwine compared to strangers that grow rigidly upright and avoid touching.

The study leaves a lot of unanswered questions that Bais hopes to explore further. How might sibling plants grown in large “monocultures,” such as corn or other major crop plants, be affected? Are they more susceptible to pathogens? And how do they survive without competing?

“It's possible that when kin are grown together, they may balance their nutrient uptake and not be greedy,” Bais speculates.

The research also may have implications for the home gardener.

“Often we'll put plants in the ground next to each other and when they don't do well, we blame the local garden center where we bought them or we attribute their failure to a pathogen,” Bais says. “But maybe there's more to it than that.”

Bais's research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and by the NSF-Delaware Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada provided research funding to Dudley.

Video clips are available; view them at http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2010/oct/plantsiblings101409.html

Tracey Bryant | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.udel.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Bare bones: Making bones transparent
27.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>