OCT 06, 2020 7:49 PM PDT

How a Carnivorous Plant Creates a 'Memory'

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a famous carnivorous plant that can capture and consume spiders, ants, beetles ,and grasshoppers. Each leaf of the plant has six hairs that can sense when prey lands on it. While a single contact is not sufficient, a second touch within thirty seconds of the first will trigger the plant’s trap to snap shut. In order for this system to work, the plant has to ‘remember’ the initial contact. So how does it do that when it doesn’t have nerves or a brain?

Sensory hairs of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). / Credit: NIBB

Scientists have previously suggested that changes in calcium ion levels may be involved in the Venus flytrap’s memory. When first postulated by Dr. Dieter Hodick and Dr. Andreas Sievers from the Botanical Institute at the University of Bonn in 1988, there was no technology that could address their hypothesis without destroying the plant.

Now researchers have the tools to investigate this idea. Reporting in Nature Plants, scientists were able to visualize the levels of calcium in plant cells, and they observed the mechanism of short-term memory.

They did so by engineering a Venus flytrap that carried a gene called GCaMP6; GCaMPs can sense calcium levels in cells, and their green glow illuminates the calcium that's present. The scientists could stimulate the leaves of the plant with a needle, and then measure how the amount of calcium changed. The first touch raised the level of calcium in the leaf blade cells. The second touch raised the intracellular levels of calcium even higher, suggesting that the trap closes after a certain calcium concentration is reached.

"I tried so many experiments over two and a half years but all failed. The Venus flytrap was such an attractive system that I did not give up. I finally noticed that foreign DNA integrated with high efficiency into the Venus flytrap grown in the dark. It was a small but indispensable clue," said the first author of the study and graduate candidate Mr. Hiraku Suda

The researchers also found that as more time passed after the initial touch, the calcium levels began to drop. If there were more than about 30 seconds in between the first and second stimuli, the trap failed to close because the calcium concentration in the cells was not high enough.

"This is the first step towards revealing the evolution of plant movement and carnivory, as well as the underlying mechanisms. Many plants and animals have interesting but unexplored biological peculiarities. The Center for the Development of New Model Organisms at NIBB is gathering the technical know-how to study such marvelous organisms" said the research team leader, Professor and Vice-Director General Mitsuyasu Hasebe from NIBB (National Institute for Basic Biology).

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via National Institutes of the Natural Science, Nature Plants

 

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 18, 2022
Neuroscience
Researchers Identify New Biomarker for Depression and Treatment Response
MAR 18, 2022
Researchers Identify New Biomarker for Depression and Treatment Response
Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have identified a novel biomarker for depression that predicts the eff ...
APR 15, 2022
Health & Medicine
The Link Between Fetal Cannabis Exposure and Obesity
APR 15, 2022
The Link Between Fetal Cannabis Exposure and Obesity
A recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found a mother’s cannabis consu ...
APR 19, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
In Early Embryonic Development, Gene Expression Goes Wild
APR 19, 2022
In Early Embryonic Development, Gene Expression Goes Wild
Genes are transcribed from DNA into RNA, which is then processed in various ways before being translated into proteins. ...
APR 20, 2022
Microbiology
Gut Microbes Can Control Pancreatic Growth & Function
APR 20, 2022
Gut Microbes Can Control Pancreatic Growth & Function
The importance of gut microbes in human health has been made apparent by a mountain of evidence, and they can affect bio ...
APR 28, 2022
Cancer
Can Urine Help Detect Prostate Cancer?
APR 28, 2022
Can Urine Help Detect Prostate Cancer?
It is estimated that over 250.000 men in the United States will receive prostate cancer diagnoses in 2022, acc ...
MAY 01, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
This Genetically Diverse Superbug Can Also Jump Species
MAY 01, 2022
This Genetically Diverse Superbug Can Also Jump Species
Two new studies have revealed more about a bacterial pathogen that can infect the gut, clostridium difficile. There are ...
Loading Comments...