Scientists at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), in a very surprising discovery, have found a new form of plant communication that allows them to share an extraordinary amount of genetic information with each other. This discovery opens the door to a completely new area of science that explores plant, for lack of a better word, languages.
“It also gives us new insight into ways to fight parasitic weeds that wreak havoc on food crops in some of the poorest parts of the world,” said Jim Westwood, a professor at college of agriculture and life sciences at Virginia Tech.
Mr. Westwood has examined the relationship between a parasitic plant and two host plants, rock cresses and tomatoes. In this study, he has found that there is a massive transport of ribonucleic acid (RNA) between the two species during their parasitic interaction. The two plants exchange thousands upon thousands of molecules, essentially creating an open dialogue between the two species that allows free communication. This exchange could allow the parasitic plant to dictate the host plant’s actions.
“The discovery of this novel form of inter-organism communication shows that this is happening a lot more than any one has previously realized,” said Westwood. “Now that we have found that they are sharing all this information, the next question is, what exactly are they telling each other? The beauty of this discovery is that this mRNA could be the Achilles hill for parasites”.
“Parasitic plants such as witchweed and broomrape are serious problems for legumes and other crops that help feed some of the poorest regions in Africa and elsewhere,” Julie Scholes, a professor at the University of Sheffield in UK who was not part of this project, said in the press release. “In addition to shedding new light on host-parasite communication, Westwood’s findings have exciting implications for the design of novel control strategies based on disrupting the mRNA information that the parasite uses to reprogram the host.”
Read more about the story at Discovery News.