Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Plant Mating Styles Influence Defense Evolution

Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013
Bookmark and Share
When it comes to mating, plants do it in many ways.

On one end of the spectrum, there are plants that self-fertilize or mate with relatives (inbreeders); on the other are plants that mate with nonrelatives (outcrossers). The two types of mating styles have evolved very different defense strategies, Cornell researchers have found.

Inbreeders' defense systems become activated only after their leaves have been eaten or damaged. Outcrossing species, on the other hand, have defense systems that are always turned on.

The study of 56 species of nightshade was published online Feb. 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The question of how inbreeding and outcrossing mating systems should influence the evolution of defenses has never been answered before at such a broad scale," said Stuart Campbell, the paper's lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of study co-author André Kessler, Cornell associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

One implication of the defense system that activates only when needed, as with inbreeders, is that these plants have advantages for colonizing new areas.

"There is an association between the dispersal or invasiveness of a species and self-fertilization," said Campbell.

Plants that self-fertilize or inbreed do not require large populations to reproduce and colonize new areas. At the same time, if a plant species moves to a new area, it likely leaves behind many of its enemies. Without the constant threat of those enemies, inbreeders can save energy that might have gone to defense by employing a system that turns on only after being eaten. For example, some plants form a toxic chemical when their leaves get damaged.

Meanwhile, outcrossers that depend on larger populations to reproduce may have an evolutionary advantage by maintaining constant chemical and structural (i.e., thorns, thick hairs) defense systems against enemies that are drawn to the crowds of plants.

In the nightshade family of up to 4,000 species, the common ancestor was an outcrossing species, though the shift to inbreeding has independently occurred within the family more than 60 times in the course of evolution. The researchers examined the defenses of more than 50 wild species of nightshade (Solanaceae) including wild tobacco, pepper, tomato and potato species.

Campbell and Kessler identified 25 pairs of plants where each pair represented a species that had independently evolved an inbreeding reproductive strategy and an outcrossing relative. These pairings were set up with controls and experimental plants.

The pairs of experimental plants were exposed to tobacco hornworm caterpillars (Manduca sexta) that prefer to feed on nightshade. After 20 percent of each plant was eaten, leaves were removed both from controls and the experimental plants. The researchers found that on the undamaged control plants, caterpillars weighed less or died more often on outcrossing species. Caterpillars also performed poorly when they ate leaves from plants that had previously been eaten. But this induced effect was dramatically greater for inbreeding plants.

"We had known that the sex lives of plants can influence herbivores, but this is the first study to look across the evolutionary history of a plant family and examine the consequences of mating systems for defense evolution," Campbell said.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Tumor-suppressing Gene Lends Insight to Cancer Treatment
Researchers have found that delicate replication process derails if a gene named PTEN has mutated or is absent.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Synthetic Immune Organ Produces Antibodies
Cornell engineers have created a functional, synthetic immune organ that produces antibodies and can be controlled in the lab, completely separate from a living organism.
Friday, June 12, 2015
On Planes, Savory Tomato Becomes Favored Flavor
Study shows the effect that airplane noise has on passengers' taste preferences.
Friday, May 15, 2015
$5.5M NSF Grant Aims to Improve Rice Crops with Genome Editing
Researchers to precisely target, cut, remove and replace DNA in a living cell to improve rice.
Friday, May 08, 2015
'Shield' Gives Tricky Proteins a New Identity
Solubilization of Integral Membrane Proteins with high Levels of Expression.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
DNA Safeguard May Be Key In Cancer Treatment
Cornell researchers have developed a new technique to understand the actions of key proteins required for cancer cells to proliferate.
Monday, March 09, 2015
A ‘STAR’ is Born: Engineers Devise Genetic 'On' Switch
A new “on” switch to control gene expression has been developed by Cornell scientists.
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Bacteria Be Gone!
New technology keeps bacteria from sticking to surfaces.
Monday, January 19, 2015
On the Environmental Trail of Food Pathogens
Learning where Listeria dwells can aid the search for other food pathogens.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Chemists Show That ALS is a Protein Aggregation Disease
Using a technique that illuminates subtle changes in individual proteins, chemistry researchers at Cornell have uncovered new insight into the underlying causes of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Genetics Used to Improve Plants for Bioenergy
An upcoming genetics investigation into the symbiotic association between soil fungi and feedstock plants for bioenergy production could lead to more efficient uptake of nutrients, which would help limit the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Computer Model Reveals Cancer's Energy Source
Findings focused on the energy-making process in cancer cells known as the Warburg Effect.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
A New Player in Lipid Metabolism Discovered
Specially engineered mice gained no weight, and normal counterparts became obese on the same high-fat, obesity-inducing Western diet.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Ingested Nanoparticles May Damage Liver
Although nanoparticles in food, sunscreen and other everyday products have many benefits, researchers from Cornell are finding that at certain doses, the particles might cause human organ damage.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Foodborne Pathogen Detection Speeds Up Dramatically
Next-generation sequencing techniques allow rapidly identification of strains of salmonella, quickening responses to potential outbreaks.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Scientific News
Atriva Therapeutics GmbH Develops Innovative Flu Drug
Highly effective against seasonal and pandemic influenza.
New Gene Therapy for Vision Loss From a Mitochondrial Disease
NIH-funded study shows success in targeting mitochondrial DNA in mice.
Study Removes Cancer Doubt for Multiple Sclerosis Drug
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London are calling on the medical community to reconsider developing a known drug to treat people with relapsing Multiple sclerosis after new evidence shows it does not increase the risk of cancer as previously thought.
Self-Propelled Powder to Stop Bleeding
UBC researchers have created the first self-propelled particles capable of delivering coagulants against the flow of blood to treat severe bleeding, a potentially huge advancement in trauma care.
Five New Genetic Variants Linked to Brain Cancer Identified
The biggest ever study of DNA from people with glioma – the most common form of brain cancer – has discovered five new genetic variants associated with the disease.
Antibody Treatment Efficacious in Psoriasis
An experimental, biologic treatment, brodalumab, achieved 100 percent reduction in psoriasis symptoms in twice as many patients as a second, commonly used treatment, according to the results of a multicenter clinical trial led by Mount Sinai researchers.
Predictive Model for Breast Cancer Progression
Biomedical engineers have demonstrated a proof-of-principle technique that could give women and their oncologists more personalized information to help them choose options for treating breast cancer.
Probing the Forces Involved in Creating The Mitotic Spindle
Scientists at The Rockefeller University reveal new insights into the mechanical forces that govern elements of the mitotic spindle formation.
Identifying Cancer’s Food Sensors May Help to Halt Tumour Growth
Oxford University researchers have identified a protein used by tumours to help them detect food supplies. Initial studies show that targeting the protein could restrict cancerous cells’ ability to grow.
Fatty Liver Disease and Scarring Have Strong Genetic Component
Researchers say that hepatic fibrosis, which involves scarring of the liver that can result in dysfunction and, in severe cases, cirrhosis and cancer, may be as much a consequence of genetics as environmental factors.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos