5-Prime | Whisper Down the Vine: Plant Communication

What is chemical communication in plants? Plants rely on chemical signals to communicate with each other and themselves. Some of these chemicals are volatile (known as volatile organic compounds--VOCs) and can be released from leaves, fruits, and flowers. VOCs play various roles in plant development, survival, and gene expression.

What sends and receives these signals? Three main types of plant-to-plant signaling are known: interspecific, with plants of other species; intraspecific, with plants of the same species; and autosignaling, within the same plant, either internally or externally. For example, bean plant (Phaseolus lunatus) leaves, infested with spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) release volatiles that increase the resistance of uninfested leaves on the same plant and the expression of self-defense genes in uninfested bean plants nearby.

Plants also can communicate with insects. For example, corn, cotton, and tobacco under attack by...

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