Researchers Discover
Aspirin Can Block
Plants' Alert Signals
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Aspirin helps ease the pains suffered by plants much in the way it helps people and animals, researchers say.
They said their findings shed more light on the "pain" mechanism that plants have, which is similar to that of animals.
Researchers in the past have found that plants do register injury, and can release chemical signals to alert their neighbors. An example is the acacia tree, which responds to browsing by animals by sending chemical signals into the air.
Neighboring trees respond by producing a chemical in their leaves that tastes nasty.
Writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the international team found that aspirin, a broad-acting painkiller, can block this signal in plants.
Ralph Backhaus and Zhiqiang Pan of Arizona State University and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Institut de Biologie Moleculaire des Plantes in Strasbourg, France, worked together on the study.
Aspirin interferes with production of prostaglandin which, in animals, is produced in response to injury, causing swelling and pain.
In plants it blocks production of jasmonic acid, the researchers found.
"Jasmonic acid is a hormone that is made when plants are in distress. It signals the production of plant-defense compounds.
It works a little like a shot of pain, warning the plant that it is under attack," Backhaus said in a statement.
"It can also volatize and warn nearby plants, a chain reaction that's like a warning signal to other plants. This seems to particularly apply to insect attack, as the alerted plants then produce specific compounds that produce insect gastro-intestinal distress."
The researchers did not propose a practical use for their finding.