Plants Found to Send Nerve-Like Messages

PLANTS, unlike animals, have no nerves, so scientists have been jolted by the discovery this month that the tomato plant uses an electric signal to alert its defense system against grazing caterpillars.

A team of researchers from England and New Zealand reported in the Nov. 5 issue of Nature that when a leaf on a tomato seedling is chewed by insects it sends out electrical warning signals, alerting the rest of the plant to the danger. As undamaged leaves receive the signal, they begin producing defensive chemicals that make them difficult to digest.

It’s a very exciting result,” said Dr. Keith Roberts, head of the cell biology department at the John Innes Institute in England and author of the commentary published along with the article. “It’s really a conceptual breakthrough to think plants use electrical signals in the same way animals use them in nerve cells. It brings plants a little bit closer to animals.

Plant

Dr. David Wildon, a plant physiologist at the University of East Anglia, England, and one of the authors of the new study, said: “Everyone can see now that if you find a system in animals and you look for it in plants, it turns up. The more we look, the more similarities there are.

Source: New York Times - Science

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