News Release

In plants, channels set the rhythm

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Plants are endowed with mechanosensitive channels

image: Plants are endowed with mechanosensitive channels such as MSL that transduce mechanical oscillations into electrical signals. In static condition, the cell membrane of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana is hardly solicited, and the MSL10 'switch' shows little activity (left-hand side). When the membrane is subjected to an oscillatory pressure mimicking the effect of the wind, the switch becomes more active (oscillation, right-hand side). This is shown schematically on the diagram in the bottom right of the figure. view more 

Credit: Jean-Marie Frachisse and Daniel Tran, Institut de Biologie Integrative de la Cellule (CNRS/Université Paris-Saclay).

Although plants are anchored to the ground, they spend most of their lifetime swinging in the wind. Like animals, plants have 'molecular switches' on the surface of their cells that transduce a mechanical signal into an electrical one in milliseconds. In animals, sound vibrations activate 'molecular switches' located in the ear. Scientists from the CNRS, INRAE, Ecole Polytechnique, Université Paris-Saclay and Université Clermont-Auvergne (1) have found that in plants, rapid oscillations of stems and leaves due to wind may activate these 'switches' very effectively. They could allow plants to 'listen' to the wind. This is a key advantage in preparing them for storms, by modulating their growth. This work was published in PNAS on December 28, 2020.


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(1) At the Institut de Biologie Intégrative de la Cellule (CNRS/Université Paris-Saclay), the Laboratoire d'Hydrodynamique (CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique), the Laboratoire de Mécanique des Solides (CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique) and the Laboratoire Physique et Physiologie Intégrative de l'Arbre en Environnement Fluctuant (INRAE/Université Clermont Auvergne).

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