Plant Science

Protection by a parasitic plant

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  18 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6352, pp. 657-658
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6352.657-e

The parasitic Cuscuta plants do not have roots; instead, they adhere to host plants and draw water and nutrients from them. Cuscuta spp. form multiple bridges between plants that can even link different species of host. Far from devastation ensuing, Hettenhausen et al. found that the interconnections can be of benefit to the hosts. This is because, when under attack by insects, a leaf initiates systemic signaling processes that help protect the other leaves of the plant. These signals can also pass through the bridges made by the Cuscuta parasite to confer insect resistance to plants that have not yet been targeted by insects. The signaling molecules that are transferred are not yet known, but the process depends in part on production of the plant hormone jasmonic acid.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1704536114 (2017).

Navigate This Article