Vampire Plant ‘Sweet Talks’ to Victims While Sucking out Vital Fluids

Vampire Plant 'Sweet Talks' to Victims While Sucking Out Vital Fluids

Researchers believe that a so-called parasitic vampire plant “sweet talks” to its victims in a unique way while sucking out their vital fluids. They are attempting to determine just exactly how that happens. A plant known as Cuscuta pentagona, or more spooky as the strangleweed, is considered to be a parasitic vascular plant which wraps itself around a host plant in a twisting manner and then punctures the plant’s stems with appendages known as haustauria. The strangleweed then begins to steal vital nutrients from the host plant. This is where the research study discovered that the vampire plant was also communicating with its victim.

In the research report, which was printed up in the journal Science, Dr. James Westwood, who is a professor at Virginia Tech, explained how Cuscuta was able to transport ribonucleic acid or RNA into the victim host. It would then proceed to give directions to the host deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. With such a process going on, each plant also traded something known as messenger RNA or mRNA for short. That happened to be genetic communications that plants use in order to be able to regulate effects such at the growth of roots and shapes of leaves.

Dr. Westwood decided to try an experiment using both tomato plants and Arabidopsis plants, which are considered to be related to mustard and cabbage, as hosts. The doctor measured the mRNA that was swapped and discovered that just under half of the Arabidopsis mRNA was in the strangleweed and one-fourth of Cuscuta’s mRNA was in the host. There were smaller amounts that were traded between the tomato plants and the strangleweed.

The scientist and his team wanted to know what was happening. Apparently the strangleweed was “telling” its host victims how to grow, actually altering their DNA in order to weaken them and also and lower their lines of defense. Apparently there is a large, two-way movement of mRNA between the host and the parasite, stated Westwood.

At the same time, the parasite weed was also getting feedback on how things were going with the victim plant and somehow perhaps acted concerned, letting the Arabidopsis victim “know” things such as “I feel your pain” as creepy and unbelievable as that sounds.

Dr. Westwood explains that such new understandings of how parasitic plants converse by using mRNA will aid biologists in developing ways fight other disturbingly named parasitic plants such as broomrape and witchweed. They both attack various food crops. The study might help researchers comprehend how to battle such parasitic plants all around the world..

Regardless, there is more research that will be needed to help fully appreciate how the plants are able to communicate with one another.

The findings seem to be showing an exciting new way of communication that exists between plants. Scientists had already known plants participated in refined chemical signaling. The doctor exclaimed that they just never believed RNA was the signal that interacted with the environment. He added that his team believes such type of communication between plants might be much more common than was known before.

The magnificence of such a find is that mRNA might just end up being a real problem for parasites. Researchers believe that the strangleweed or Cuscuta pentagona as it is officially known, is a a parasitic vampire plant that “sweet talks” to its victims in a unique way while it sucks out their vital fluids.

By Kimberly Ruble


NBC News

Mysterious Universe

Space News

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