The pressure sensing unit of the venus flytrap


IMAGE: Open trap of Dionaea muscipula with prospective victim. Middle: basal part of a trigger hair, where action capacities are generated in the sensory cells upon touch stimulation. Throughout the late …
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Credit: (Photo: Ines Kreuzer, Soenke Scherzer/ University of Wuerzburg)

All plant cells can be made to respond by touch or injury. The meat-eating Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) has extremely delicate organs for this function: sensory hairs that sign up even the weakest mechanical stimuli, enhance them and transform them into electrical signals that then spread out rapidly through the plant tissue.

Scientists from Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, have actually separated specific sensory hairs and evaluated the gene swimming pool that is active in capturing pests. “While doing so, we discovered for the very first time the genes that probably serve throughout the plant kingdom to transform regional mechanical stimuli into systemic signals,” states JMU plant scientist Teacher Rainer Hedrich.

That’s a great thing, due to the fact that practically absolutely nothing was understood about mechano-receptors in plants previously. Hedrich’s group provides the lead to the open-access journal PLOS Biology

Sensory hairs transform touch into electrical energy

The hinged trap of Dionaea includes 2 halves, each bring 3 sensory hairs. When a hair is bent by touch, an electrical signal, an action capacity, is produced at its base. At the base of the hair are cells in which ion channels break open due to an extending of their envelope membrane and end up being electrically conductive. The upper part of the sensory hair functions as a lever that magnifies the stimulus activated by even the lightest victim.

These micro-force-touch sensing units therefore change the mechanical stimulus into an electrical signal that spreads out from the hair over the whole flap trap. After 2 action capacities, the trap snaps shut. Based upon the variety of action capacities activated by the victim animal throughout its efforts to complimentary itself, the meat-eating plant approximates whether the victim is huge enough – whether it deserves setting the fancy food digestion in movement.

From genes to the function of the touch sensing unit

To examine the molecular basis for this special function, Hedrich’s group “gathered” about 1000 sensory hairs. Together with JMU bioinformatician Teacher Jörg Schultz, they set out to recognize the genes in the hairs.

” While doing so, we observed that the finger print of the genes active in the hair varies from that of the other cell enters the trap,” states Schulz. How is the mechanical stimulus transformed into electrical energy? “To address this, we concentrated on the ion channels that are revealed in the sensory hair or are discovered solely there,” states Hedrich.

Searching for additional ion channels

The sensory hair-specific potassium channel KDM1 stood apart. Freshly established electrophysiological techniques revealed that without this channel, the electrical excitability of the sensory hairs is lost, i.e. they can no longer fire action capacities. “Now we require to recognize and characterise the ion channels that play an essential function in the early stages of the action capacity,” Hedrich stated. .


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