CO2mmon Sense

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Science  15 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5963, pp. 275-276
DOI: 10.1126/science.1186022

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Plants and animals sense and respond to carbon dioxide (CO2), but the means by which they do so have not been well defined. Plants detect and respond to an increase in environmental CO2 concentration by closing the gas valves in their leaves (thus conserving water), but the CO2 sensing mechanism has been debated. Fruit flies, mosquitoes, and moths sense CO2 to find food resources such as decaying fruits, human prey, and flowers, respectively, but as well, the sensing mechanisms are not yet fully characterized. Pressurized CO2 is used in many food products, such as carbonated beverages, but it is not clear how humans sense the gas, nor what advantage this might serve. It is particularly interesting that two recent studies have unraveled, independently, how organisms as diverse as plants and mammals sense CO2, and come up with a similar mechanism whose output triggers responses not previously linked to CO2 detection (1, 2).