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Crop Biotech Update

Tel Aviv Researcher Says Plants can See, Smell, Feel, and Taste

August 3, 2012

Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, Director of Tel Aviv University's Manna Center for Plant Biosciences, has revealed that plant and human biology is much closer than has ever been understood. While researching on the way plants react to light, Chamovitz discovered a group of genes responsible for knowing whether it was in the light or in the dark. He first believed that these genes were specific to plant life, but was surprised to later identify the same group of genes in humans and animals. Chamovitz says that "the same group of proteins that plants use to decide if they are in the light or dark is also used by animals and humans," as these proteins control  circadian rhythm and the cell cycle in humans.

Plants use light as a behavioral signal, to let them know when to open their leaves to gather necessary nutrients. This light response is viewed as a rudimentary form of sight, according to Chamovitz, who notes that plants "see" light signals, including color, direction, and intensity, then integrate this information and decide on a response. Plants also demonstrate smell — a ripe fruit releases a "ripening pheromone" in the air, which is detected by unripe fruit and signals them to follow suit — as well as the ability to feel and taste. To some degree, plants also have different forms of "memory," allowing them to encode, store, and retrieve information.

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