Plants have to deal with a lot of threats, from insects that want to munch them to bacteria that would like to infect them. It’s tough to put up a defense to multiple attacks at once, all while maintaining the energy to grow. But researchers at Michigan State University may have figured out a way to help plants withstand attacks by both insects and certain pathogens simultaneously. The work published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
One of the major defense mechanisms in plants is jasmonate, a stress hormone. When an insect bites the plant, it triggers the jasmonate pathway, which causes the plant to release compounds that discourage the insect from eating more. These compounds are called protease inhibitors, and they make it so that the insect can’t digest the plant material.
Read more from Popular Science here and the foundation's plant science collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and grantee, Sheng Yang He.