For decades, scientists have known that plants protect themselves from the devastation of hungry caterpillars and other plant-munching animals through sophisticated response systems, the product of millions of years of evolution.
The biological mechanisms underlying this attack-counter defense paradigm have been vigorously pursued by plant biologists given that such details will help unlock a trove of new strategies for improved plant health. From countering crop pest damage to engineering more robust global food webs, such information is valuable for ensuring sustainable and reliable yields.
Now, researchers at the University of California San Diego and their colleagues have identified the first key biological switch, or receptor, that sounds an alarm in plants specifically when herbivores attack. The discovery is described in the online publication of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.