Image: Droplets
Original Published Date: 
Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at The University of Adelaide have shown for the first time that—despite not having a nervous system—plants use signals normally associated with animals when they encounter stress. Their research showed that plants respond to their environment with a similar combination of chemical and electrical responses to animals, but through machinery that is specific to plants. “We’ve known for a long time that the animal neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is produced by plants under stress, for example when they encounter drought, salinity, viruses, acidic soils or extreme temperatures,” said ARC Future Fellow, Associate Professor Matthew Gilliham. “But it was not known whether GABA was a signal in plants. We’ve discovered that plants bind GABA in a similar way to animals, resulting in electrical signals that ultimately regulate plant growth when a plant is exposed to a stressful environment.” By identifying how plants respond to GABA, the researchers are optimistic that they have opened up many new possibilities for modifying how plants respond to stress.

Media issued by The University of Adelaide.

Photo credit: 

Image courtesy of dan at