Journal Article

Plant responsiveness to root–root communication of stress cues

Omer Falik, Yonat Mordoch, Daniel Ben-Natan, Miriam Vanunu, Oron Goldstein and Ariel Novoplansky

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 110, issue 2, pages 271-280
Published in print July 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online March 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Plant responsiveness to root–root communication of stress cues

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Phenotypic plasticity is based on the organism's ability to perceive, integrate and respond to multiple signals and cues informative of environmental opportunities and perils. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that plants are able to adapt to imminent threats by perceiving cues emitted from their damaged neighbours. Here, the hypothesis was tested that unstressed plants are able to perceive and respond to stress cues emitted from their drought- and osmotically stressed neighbours and to induce stress responses in additional unstressed plants.


Split-root Pisum sativum, Cynodon dactylon, Digitaria sanguinalis and Stenotaphrum secundatum plants were subjected to osmotic stress or drought while sharing one of their rooting volumes with an unstressed neighbour, which in turn shared its other rooting volume with additional unstressed neighbours. Following the kinetics of stomatal aperture allowed testing for stress responses in both the stressed plants and their unstressed neighbours.

Key Results

In both P. sativum plants and the three wild clonal grasses, infliction of osmotic stress or drought caused stomatal closure in both the stressed plants and in their unstressed neighbours. While both continuous osmotic stress and drought induced prolonged stomatal closure and limited acclimation in stressed plants, their unstressed neighbours habituated to the stress cues and opened their stomata 3–24 h after the beginning of stress induction.


The results demonstrate a novel type of plant communication, by which plants might be able to increase their readiness to probable future osmotic and drought stresses. Further work is underway to decipher the identity and mode of operation of the involved communication vectors and to assess the potential ecological costs and benefits of emitting and perceiving drought and osmotic stress cues under various ecological scenarios.

Keywords: Cynodon dactylon; Digitaria sanguinalis; drought stress; osmotic stress; phenotypic plasticity; Pisum sativum; plant communication; root communication; root signalling; Stenotaphrum secundatum; stress cues

Journal Article.  6858 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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