In a stress situation caused by heat, constant sunlight or drought, plant cells generate a molecule of initial alarm, known as MEcPP, which in turn produces salicylic acid as a form of protection.
A group of researchers from scientific institutions in the United States revealed that plants produce its own aspirin, the trade name for salicylic acid, as a means of regulation and protection against the various threats present in its environment, such as insects, excessive heat and drought, the University of California at Riverside reported Tuesday.
According to the study, published in the journal Science Advances, the response to environmental stress was analyzed in the cells of Arabidopsis, a genus of herbaceous plants of the Brassicaceae family.
This type of stress usually causes the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in all living organisms, molecules that cause damage at the cellular level. The scientists explained that, in the case of humans, ROS cause burns and freckles when exposed to the sun without any type of protection.
The high levels of ROS in Plants can be dangerous to them, but in smaller amounts these molecules have an important function in their cells. In the words of researcher Jin-Zheng Wang, EORs can be a “double-edged sword”, since “at non-lethal levels” they act as “an emergency call to action, which enables the production of protective hormones such as salicylic acid”.
According to those responsible for the investigation, it was discovered that, in a stress situation caused by heat , constant sunlight or drought, the sugar production apparatus in plant cells generates an initial alarm molecule, which is known as MEcPP.
Producing your own aspirin
The accumulation of MEcPP, which has also been observed in bacteria and malaria parasites, induces to the production of salicylic acid, which protects plant cells, specifically chloroplasts os, which are responsible for the process of photosynthesis.
“It’s as if plants use an analgesic for aches and pains, just like we do”, said biologist Wilhelmina van de Ven.
For her part, Professor Katayoon Dehesh commented: “Because salicylic acid helps plants to resist the stress that becomes more prevalent with climate change, being able to increase the capacity of plants to produce it represents a step forward to challenge the impacts of climate change in everyday life”.
“We would like to be able to use the knowledge gained to improve crop resistance,” said Wang.
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