An unexpected discovery made by researchers has the potential to change completely our perception of plants. As it was revealed, plants react to their injuries by activating the defense systems. For example, if a plant is being eaten by an insect, it can release noxious chemical substances in order to make the leaves taste bad. At this point in the research, the scientists do not state that the plants are equipped with nerves but they seem to have something that works in a similar way.
How did scientists reach this conclusion
In their research, the scientists used fluorescent proteins, which allowed them to follow signals travelling inside of the plant in reaction to a stressor. According to botanist Simon Gilroy, the team was aware of the fact that a wound triggers a systematic signaling system, but until now it was not known how it happens.
The role of calcium in the study
In order to find out what lies behind this process, the scientists decided to test the plant’s response to gravity by observing increases in calcium. A mustard plant was genetically modified, so that they could investigate calcium in real-time. The scientists used the fact that the introduced protein fluoresces only in the presence of calcium. Then they cut a leaf of the plant to see what will happen next.
The plant’s response to the danger
As soon as the leaf was cut, the scientists observed the flow of light waves from the wound to the rest of the plant. The rate of this transmission was one millimeter per second, which is much slower than the reaction of nerve cells of animals, which reaches up to 120 meters per second. Once the rest of the plant was alerted, the damaged area saw a rise of defensive hormones.
Further tests have shown that glutamate could be responsible for the defensive reaction in some plant species. It looks like we might need to change the way we perceive plants, as they might be more complex than we thought.