FunNature & AnimalPlants produce their own 'aspirin' when stressed

Plants produce their own 'aspirin' when stressed


A new study carried out by scientists at UC Riverside University (USA) analyzes this particular self-defense mechanism in plants, whereby plants do something similar to what we humans do when we get a headache and feel sick. We take a painkiller. Plants, in this case, regulate the production of the active metabolite of aspirin, salicylic acid, producing their own analgesic when they are stressed either by drought or heat, or by insect attack.


Aspirin from plants

While salicylic acid has been used by humans for centuries as a treatment for pain and inflammation, in plants it plays a critical role in signalling, regulation, and defense against pathogens. Plant ‘aspirin’ is produced in chloroplasts and generated in response to stress.

Arabidopsis was exposed to environmental stress, such as light stress . This led to the production of reactive oxygen species or ROS. In humans, ROS can cause freckles or burns. Depending on the amount of ROS in plants, they can either kill the plant or warn you of increasing stress.

“It’s as if plants use a pain reliever for aches and pains, just like we do,” says plant biologist Wilhelmina van de Ven of the University of California, Riverside (UCR).

“Because salicylic acid helps plants resist stresses that become more prevalent with climate change, being able to increase plants’ ability to produce it represents a step forward in challenging the impacts of climate change on everyday life.” said Katayoon Dehesh , lead author of the paper and UCR.

How do plants regulate the production of salicylic acid?

The researchers studied a model plant called Arabidopsis , but hope to apply their understanding of stress responses in the cells of this plant to many other types of plants, including those grown for food. “We would like to be able to use the knowledge gained to improve crop resistance,” said Jin-Zheng Wang, a plant geneticist at UCR and a co-author of the new study. “That will be crucial for the food supply in our ever warmer and brighter world.”

If the plants have problems, so do we. Plants clean our air by sequestering carbon dioxide, offer us shade and provide a habitat for numerous animals, they say.

“Those impacts go beyond our food . Plants clean our air by sequestering carbon dioxide, offer us shade, and provide a habitat for numerous animals. The benefits of boosting their survival are exponential,” the authors said.

Thus, plants protect themselves from environmental hazards such as insects, drought and heat by producing salicylic acid, also known as aspirin. A new understanding of this process may help plants survive the increasing stress caused by climate change.

Referencia: Jin-Zheng Wang, Wilhelmina van de Ven, Yanmei Xiao, Xiang He, Haiyan Ke, Panyu Yang, Katayoon Dehesh. Reciprocity between a retrograde signal and a putative metalloprotease reconfigures plastidial metabolic and structural states. Science Advances, 2022; 8 (22) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abo0724

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