Plants also have hormones and even these living creatures need to signal to the various parts of the plant a possible danger, whether it is an insect attack or a particular hot or cold state.
A team of researchers, who have published a study on Nature Plants, is focusing on one of these hormones, probably one of the most important in terms of danger warnings, called jasmonic acid or Jasmonate.
The study confirms the existence of what can be considered as a complex network of communication within plants, a knowledge that could prove useful to develop a more resistant crop able to resist insect attack as well as cold and heat.
Joseph Ecker, corresponding author of the study and researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, states that this study describes in great detail this hormone, its functioning and the fact that it acts at different levels.
The researchers focused mainly on Arabidopsis thaliana, a small plant of the mustard family. It is a plant whose genome has already been extensively described.
“Jasmonic acid is particularly important for a plant’s defense response against fungi and insects,” explains author Mark Zander, researcher in Ecker’s laboratory and other author of the study. “We wanted to understand exactly what happens after jasmonic acid is perceived by the plant. Which genes are activated and deactivated, which proteins are produced and which factors are in control of these well orchestrated cellular processes?”
The researchers identified two important genes, called MYC2 and MYC3, which encode the proteins that act as transcription factors, which means that they regulate the activity of many genes, probably thousands.
“Deciphering all these genetic networks and subnets helps us understand the architecture of the entire system,” Zander explains. “We now have a very complete picture of which genes are activated and deactivated during a plant’s defense response. With the availability of gene modification via CRISPR, this type of detail can be useful for crops that are better able to resist pest attacks.