Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discover Plants Use Calcium to Send Internal Warning Signals of Aphid Attacks

July 19, 2017

Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) have discovered that plants under aphid attack use calcium as a warning signal. They found that when the insect feeds on leaves, it triggers the plant to send calcium into damaged cells. This prompts the plant to signal that an attack is underway, and a larger amount of calcium is then mobilized from within the cell.

The researchers used electrophysiological monitoring and a genetically-encoded fluorescent reporter of calcium to show that calcium is elevated in penetration sites of aphids during the early stages of its attempt to establish a long-term feeding site. They combined this knowledge with evaluation of the genetic response to determine that the elevation of calcium was dependent on specific plant membrane channels.

"Understanding the mechanisms involved in the early stages of feeding may provide information on how we can stop the aphid in its tracks and prevent virus transmission," says JIC Professor Saskia Hogenhout.

For more details, read the JIC News.