|Rationale for research on intercellular signals in plants
In July 2005 the European Commission (Research Directorate B – Anticipation of scientific and technological needs; basic research) favourably evaluated the first stage proposal INFOSTRENGTH (PDF, 62kB) which was set up by scientists from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Entomology, Uppsala, the University of Southampton, School of Chemistry, Electrochemistry Group, and the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Intitute of General Botany, Electrophysiology Group. The envisaged project aims at detection of plant-borne compounds for plant protection of energy plants. The rationale for the project is outlined below.
- Plant leaves represent plant tissue which is easily accessible for collecting commercially relevant compounds.
Compounds produced by leaf tissue provide the basis for plant strengtheners or plant activators as environmentally benign plant protectants.
Costs for development and registration of aqueous extracts are comparatively low.
The market is a niche market.
Special focus is on protection of species which are relevant for energy production on abandoned agricultural areas in Europe.
- After appropriate stimulation, leaf tissue of selected plant genotypes produces defense compounds against numerous plant pests ( plasticity of the phenotype).
After stimulation, leaf tissue produces preservation compounds (already commercialised).
After stimulation, leaf tissue produces phytohormones and intercellular signaling compounds as messengers which confer improved pest resistance when applied to other tissues or individuals.
- In order to protect target plants in agriculture and forestry, candidate plants for producing plant activators are selected from within the same genus, species or variety to which the target plants belong (accounting for physiological diversity).
With respect to source genotypes special focus is on genotypes which are at risk of extinction by human activities.
- In search for potent messengers, compounds are collected after being secreted by the leaf tissue ( in-vivo extracts ).
Sampling of secreted liquid follows a bottom-up scheme: It starts within the intact leaf by means of micropipettes directed to the extracellular space. It proceeds to leaf incubators in which quantities are released to the bulk solution being sufficient for bioassays with pest organisms.
- Biosensor leaves enable physiological assays for testing putative plant activators.
Appropriately preconditioned leaves represent biosensors for validation of bioactive compounds administered to the leaf interior.
Metabolic switches towards defense are monitored in real-time by in-vivo sensors directed to the extracellular space.
- Microsystem technology is essential for exploiting the cellular secretion machinery in leaves.
Development of required sensors integrates various disciplines covering electrochemistry, surface and material science, optical and biomimetic technologies.
Biological principles of structural enforcement and molecular recognition are implemented in the development of synthetic receptors for sensor interfaces.
Commercially available sensor systems are tailored, enforced and again made available to the market for other applications, e.g. in medicine.
- The growth of phytosensor technology creates labour in the fields of technology as well as agriculture with source plants. In political terms it supports a highly diverse employment strategy .
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