Diverse Leaves May Protect Eucalyptus

A tree in Australia was found to have genetically dissimilar leaves that varied in attractiveness to herbivores.

By | February 20, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, FIR0002Scientists have found a eucalyptus tree whose leaves on different branches taste different to predators, according to a study published today (February 20) in BMC Plant Biology.

The researchers sequenced the RNA molecules present in different leaves of a single tree, located in a small Australian town. The tree had been suspected to harbor substantial genetic variation since 1990, when scientists noticed that insects had entirely defoliated it with the exception of a single leaf-covered branch.

The branches, it turned out, were expressing different sets of genes that either made them attractive or unattractive to pests. The authors also found 10 instances where the leaves’ RNA sequences varied by a single nucleotide, likely the sites of mutations in the DNA. The paper showed that a few well-placed mutations can lead to substantial changes in gene expression.

Genetic variation among plant tissues is common in nature. For instance, Japanese morning glories have single plants with differently colored flowers—the result of genetic mutations—and nectarines arose from mutations to peach trees and can grow alongside peaches on the same tree.

In the case of the eucalyptus tree, having genetic differences between branches may protect it from being decimated, a BMC Plant Biology press release suggested. The good-tasting leaves satiate predators, while the tree still retains enough leaves to survive.


Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Popular Now

  1. Inside a Lab Mouse’s High-Fat Diet
  2. Battling the Bulge
    Bio Business Battling the Bulge

    Weight-loss drugs that target newly characterized obesity-related receptors and pathways could finally offer truly effective fat control.

  3. How Gastric Bypass Can Kill Sugar Cravings
  4. Birth of the Skin Microbiome
    Daily News Birth of the Skin Microbiome

    The immune system tolerates the colonization of commensal bacteria on the skin with the aid of regulatory T cells during the first few weeks of life, a mouse study shows.

Life Technologies