According to a study recently published in the journal Nature Communications plants send animal-like signals even though they do not possess a nervous system. This happened when the plants are under stress. The combination of chemical and electrical responses with which plants respond to the environment are similar to those of animals.
Plants send such signals when they are faced with viruses, acid soils, salinity, extreme temperatures and drought. These are animal neurotransmitters which are known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). One of the researchers involved in the study, Matthew Gilliham of the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine said that researchers have been aware of this for a long time, but they were not sure whether these neurotransmitters were used as signals. He also explained that the fact that plants bind GABA like animal results in electrical signals which help regulating the plant growth when it is faced with a stressful environment.
The researchers noted:
We propose that GABA exerts its multiple physiological effects in plants via ALMT, including the regulation of pollen tube and root growth, and that GABA can finally be considered a legitimate signaling molecule in both the plant and animal kingdoms.”
The findings of the study indicate that the compound is the same for both plants and animals and what differs is the proteins binding. This means that plants and animals evolved influenced by how they used to compound.
The research also offers details about how plants have evolved and have become what they are today. Scientists speculate that plant cells adopted GABA neurotransmitter and to use it as a communication tool.
Researchers hope that once they discover how plants respond to GABA they will be able to develop new ways and change the way in which plants respond to stressful situations. If they manage to find out how plants use GABA as a stress signal researchers will be able to breed crops that can better bear with stressful environment. As a consequence this can highly influence food security.
In addition researchers believe that this discovery could help them understand why drugs derived from plants are used as sedatives or for epilepsy. GABA signaling agents may prove to be useful in the medical industry as well.
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