A new scientific study shows that plants emit certain signals similar to those of animals when faced with stress, despite not having a nervous system.
Through a specific mechanism, researchers at Adelaide University discovered that plants send out chemical and electrical impulses, similar to those of certain animals.
Professor Matthew Giliham, the author of the study, said that the animal neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) was produced by plants facing ‘stressful’ situations, for instance while being subjected to
“drought, salinity, viruses, acidic soils or extreme temperatures.”
GABA, with its appearance as a white microcrystalline powder, is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter found in the mammalian central nervous system; it is truly intriguing that this particular type of acid has been recently spotted in plants’ configurations as well.
So, the amino—butyric acid plays a key-role in reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. It is interesting that, in humans, it is also an elementary substance, directly responsible for the muscle tone.
Until recently, it was unknown whether GABA was also a signal in plants. According to Giliham,
“plants bind GABA in a similar way to animals, resulting in electrical signals that ultimately regulate plant growth when a plant is exposed to a stressful environment.”
Needless to say, scientists can now study thoroughly the multitude of possibilities for altering how plants respond to stress exactly, in relation to the plants’ responses to GABA.
The co-lead author of the study, Prof. Stephen Tyerman, reported that agricultural crops, confronted with poor environmental conditions and pathogens, are held answerable for most of the cultivation losses globally, and, as a consequence, for food shortages.
Tyerman also said that
“by identifying how plants use GABA as a stress signal we have a new tool to help in the global effort to breed more stress resilient crops to fight food insecurity.”
The relation between plants and mammals concerning the proteins that unite GABA resemble reciprocally exclusively in the segment where they interact with the neurotransmitter – the rest of the protein looks rather different.
Researcher Dr. Sunita Ramesh said that GABA
“has been recruited as a messenger in both plant and animal kingdoms.”
It is highly likely that this process was developed separately in both kingdoms.
An important aspect is the emphasis on the fact that these discoveries have made it comprehensible as to why plant-derived drugs used as sedatives and anti-epileptics function in humans.
Moreover, the above-mentioned scientific team is also researching even more plant constituent elements, such as salicylic acid, found in the famous aspirin. This compound can be used to treat pimples and acne.
Hopefully, these potential yet-to-be-concluded studies might lead to other health-related benefits to ameliorating headaches and reducing fevers.
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