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Plant Signal Behav. 2010 Jan;5(1):73-5.

Trichomes as sensors: detecting activity on the leaf surface.

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Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA.


The dramatic movements of some carnivorous plants species are triggered by sensory structures derived from trichomes. While unusual plant species such as the Venus fly trap and sundews may be expected to have elaborate sensors to capture their insect prey, more modest plant species might not be expected to have similar sensory capabilities. Our recent work, however, has revealed that glandular trichomes on tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) appear to have a function similar to trigger hairs of carnivorous species, acting as "early warning" sensors. Using a combination of behavioral, molecular, and biochemical techniques, we determined that caterpillars, moths and mechanical disruption upregulate signaling molecules and defensive genes found in glandular trichomes. Importantly, we discovered that plants whose trichomes have been broken respond more vigorously when their defenses were induced. Taken together, our results suggest that glandular trichomes can act as sensors that detect activity on the leaf surface, and ready plants for herbivore attack.


Solanum lycopersicum; glandular trichome; induced responses; jasmonic acid; plant-insect interactions; sensor; tomato

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