Researchers find mechanism that gives plants ‘balance’

Tom Oswald
EurekAlert

PNAS paper details how plants balance growth versus defense.

When a plant goes into defense mode in order to protect itself against harsh weather or disease, that’s good for the plant, but bad for the farmer growing the plant. Bad because when a plant acts to defend itself, it turns off its growth mechanism.

But now researchers at Michigan State University, as part of an international collaboration, have figured out how plants can make the “decision” between growth and defense, a finding that could help them strike a balance – keep safe from harm while continuing to grow.

Writing in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sheng Yang He, an MSU professor of plant biology, and his team found that the two hormones that control growth (called gibberellins) and defense (known as jasmonates) literally come together in a crisis and figure out what to do.

“What we’ve discovered is that some key components of growth and defense programs physically interact with each other,” he said. “Communication between the two is how plants coordinate the two different situations.

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