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Volatile Chemical Cues Guide Host Location and Host Selection by Parasitic Plants

Science  29 Sep 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5795, pp. 1964-1967
DOI: 10.1126/science.1131371

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Abstract

The importance of plant volatiles in mediating interactions between plant species is much debated. Here, we demonstrate that the parasitic plant Cuscuta pentagona (dodder) uses volatile cues for host location. Cuscuta pentagona seedlings exhibit directed growth toward nearby tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) and toward extracted tomato-plant volatiles presented in the absence of other cues. Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) and wheat plants (Triticum aestivum) also elicit directed growth. Moreover, seedlings can distinguish tomato and wheat volatiles and preferentially grow toward the former. Several individual compounds from tomato and wheat elicit directed growth by C. pentagona, whereas one compound from wheat is repellent. These findings provide compelling evidence that volatiles mediate important ecological interactions among plant species.

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