Scientists Find Plants Can Feel The World Around Them

A pioneering study shows how plants feel the world. Experts note how plants are not too dissimilar to humans.

The more we search, the more we discover how everything on Earth is connected. Our planet is connected more than we’ve ever imagined.

A small group of key proteins interact with each other to establish how plants show sensitivity to the world around them, according to a scientific study describing how plants feel the world.

Despite the fact that plants lack eyes and ears, they can still see, hear, smell and respond to environmental cues and hazards, especially to virulent pathogens, note researchers.

Plants are able to achieve this with the help of hundreds of membrane proteins that can detect microbes or other stresses.

Experts have found how only a small portion of these sensitive proteins has been studied through classical genetics, and knowledge about how these sensors work forming complex networks with each other is scarce.

Now, a worldwide team of scientists has devised the first network map for 200 of these proteins.

The map shows how a few essential proteins act as critical master nodes for the integrity of the network, and the map also reveals a set of unknown interactions.

“This is a pioneering work to classify the first layer of intercommunications among these proteins,” said Mukhtar, an assistant professor of biology in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences.

“An understanding of these interactions could lead to ways to increase a plant’s resistance to pathogens, or to other stresses like heat, drought, salinity or cold shock. This can also provide a roadmap for future studies by scientists around the world.”

The group of scientists from Europe, Canada, and the United States, was led by Youssef Belkhadir of the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology in Vienna.

The study has recently been published in the journal Nature.

The novel comprehensive interaction network map focused on one of the most important classes of these sensing proteins — the leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases, or LRR-receptor kinases, which are structurally similar to human Toll-like receptors.

Scientists have identified LRR receptor kinases as a family of proteins in plants and animals that are primarily responsible for detecting the environment.

In plants, they have an extracellular domain of the protein, which extends beyond the cell membrane, that has the ability can recognize chemical signals, such as growth hormones or protein portions of pathogens.

The receptor kinases then initiate responses to these signals within the cell, using an intracellular domain of the protein.

For example, the plant Arabidopsis thaliana happens to have more than 600 different receptor kinases, 50 times more than ordinary humans, which are fundamental for the growth, development, immunity and stress response of plants.

So far, only a handful of these receptors had known functions, and little was known about how receivers interact with each other in order to coordinate responses to often conflicting signals.

Source: An extracellular network of Arabidopsis leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases

Featured image credit: Shutterstock

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