- 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
- 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.