Experts at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom have discovered that
inhibiting the production of serotonin - the happiness hormone - in rice
plants increases their resistance to two of the world's most destructive and
costly insect pests in rice production: brown plant-hopper and striped stem
borer. Using gene editing techniques on rice plants to switch off the
serotonin-producing gene, the team found the plants also produced higher
levels of salicylic acid.
In humans, serotonin helps regulate moods, boost appetite, regulate
digestion, and helps with sleep and memory. In plants, serotonin is involved
in growth and development, while it helps insects seek out resources and
Analyzing the plant's response to insect attack, the team found both
serotonin and salicylic acid were produced in response to an infestation,
but supressing serotonin production made the rice plants more
pest-resistant. They also found that disabling the gene responsible for
making serotonin increases levels of salicylic acid in the plant and
increase its resistance.