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Researchers Discover Molecular Basis of Odor Detection in Plants
Posted by: Prof. Dr. M. Raupp (IP Logged)
Date: February 03, 2019 07:34AM

Plants can smell, too, even without noses. This ability of plants to smell
is in their genes and researchers have discovered the first steps of how
information from odor molecules changes gene expression in plants. This
discovery by researchers from the University of Tokyo led by Professor
Kazushige Touhara, is the first to reveal the molecular basis of odor
detection in plants and was more than 18 years in the making.

Plants detect odor molecules known as volatile organic compounds, which are
essential for survival strategies, including attracting birds and bees,
deterring pests, and reacting to disease in nearby plants. These compounds
also give distinctive scents. The researchers exposed tobacco cells and
4-week-old tobacco plants to different volatile organic compounds. They
discovered that odor molecules change gene expression by binding to other
molecules called transcriptional co-repressors that can turn genes on or

Touhara hopes to apply their discoveries to influence crop quality or
character without the complications of gene editing or pesticide use. He
said that farmers could spray their fields with an odor associated with a
desired plant behavior. For example, an odor that triggers to change the
taste of their leaves to deter insects.


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