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Crop Biotech Update

Lack of 'Happiness' Hormone Makes Rice Plants Less Attractive to Insects

May 23, 2018

Experts at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom have discovered that inhibiting the production of serotonin - the happiness hormone - in rice plants increases their resistance to two of the world's most destructive and costly insect pests in rice production: brown plant-hopper and striped stem borer. Using gene editing techniques on rice plants to switch off the serotonin-producing gene, the team found the plants also produced higher levels of salicylic acid.

In humans, serotonin helps regulate moods, boost appetite, regulate digestion, and helps with sleep and memory. In plants, serotonin is involved in growth and development, while it helps insects seek out resources and food.

Analyzing the plant's response to insect attack, the team found both serotonin and salicylic acid were produced in response to an infestation, but supressing serotonin production made the rice plants more pest-resistant. They also found that disabling the gene responsible for making serotonin increases levels of salicylic acid in the plant and increase its resistance.

For more information, read the news article from Newcastle University.