Human brain drug uncovers key to plant stress response—6 April 2018

Researchers supported by Australian Research Council (ARC) funding have discovered that drugs used in the treatment of certain brain disorders, including epilepsy, also alter signalling processes in plants under stress.

The study was carried out by researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and other scientists at The University of Adelaide’s Waite campus.

“Our earlier research discovered that plants respond to environmental stresses with a similar combination of chemical and electrical responses to animals,” says Professor Steve Tyerman, Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the University of Adelaide.

“We showed that a mammalian neurotransmittercalled gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)that is produced by plants under stress such as drought or salinity, acts as a signal in plants like it does in animals, although through systems specific to plants.

“GABA, an important signalling molecule in the human brain, is emerging as being equally important in plants. GABA levels change rapidly in plant cells under stress, such as when exposed to acid soils. But until now, we did not know how and why GABA levels in plants changed."

The researchers say that by understanding such a key mechanism in the response of plants to stresses in their environment, they have made an important step towards breeding more stress-tolerant crops to improve crop yields and boost food security.

Media issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.


Image:GABA is a neurotransmitter that operates as a signalling chemical in plants and in humans.
Credit: Sunita Ramesh et al.

Original Published Date: 
Friday, April 6, 2018