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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Mar 20;280(1759):20130228. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.0228. Print 2013 May 22.

Jasmonates trigger prey-induced formation of 'outer stomach' in carnivorous sundew plants.

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Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans Knöll Strasse 8, 07745 Jena, Germany.


It has been widely accepted that the growth-related phytohormone auxin is the endogenous signal that initiates bending movements of plant organs. In 1875, Charles Darwin described how the bending movement of leaves in carnivorous sundew species formed an 'outer stomach' that allowed the plants to enclose and digest captured insect prey. About 100 years later, auxin was suggested to be the factor responsible for this movement. We report that prey capture induces both leaf bending and the accumulation of defence-related jasmonate phytohormones. In Drosera capensis fed with fruitflies, within 3 h after prey capture and simultaneous with leaf movement, we detected an increase in jasmonic acid and its isoleucine conjugate. This accumulation was spatially restricted to the bending segment of the leaves. The application of jasmonates alone was sufficient to trigger leaf bending. Only living fruitflies or the body fluids of crushed fruitflies induced leaf curvature; neither dead flies nor mechanical treatment had any effect. Our findings strongly suggest that the formation of the 'outer stomach' in Drosera is a chemonastic movement that is triggered by accumulation of endogenous jasmonates. These results suggest that in carnivorous sundew plants the jasmonate cascade might have been adapted to facilitate carnivory rather than to defend against herbivores.

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