Plants Are More Alive than We Thought

This article is based on newly published research from the University of Alabama – ben_franklinBirmingham.

The item under study is the the leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases, or LRR-receptor kinases. That’s a protein that exists in both plants and animals, and allows them to sense heat or cold, dryness or dampness, light and darkness, salinity, even foreign microbes.  Humans have some; plants appear to have hundreds more.

Researchers at the University are building a map of kinases, showing how they interact as well as  identifying controlling mechanisms.

You’ve probably heard of people who sing to their flowers or play music in their gardens. That might actually work, and kinases may be the mechanism for it.

“The model plant Arabidopsis thaliana contains more than 600 different receptor kinases — 50 times more than humans — that are critical for plant growth, development, immunity and stress response. Until now, only a handful had known functions, and little was known about how the receptors might interact with each to coordinate responses to often-conflicting signals.”(1)

The research sounds obscure, but the implications are amazing. The authors talk about a potential ability to enable plants to thrive under different sets of growing conditions, such as heat and drought. However, it could also enable the development of crops that could prosper at the International Space Station or on other planets.


  1. Elwira Smakowska-Luzan, G. Adam Mott, Katarzyna Parys, Martin Stegmann, Timothy C Howton, Mehdi Layeghifard, Jana Neuhold, Anita Lehner, Jixiang Kong, Karin Grünwald, Natascha Weinberger, Santosh B. Satbhai, Dominik Mayer, Wolfgang Busch, Mathias Madalinski, Peggy Stolt-Bergner, Nicholas J. Provart, M. Shahid Mukhtar, Cyril Zipfel, Darrell Desveaux, David S. Guttman, Youssef Belkhadir. An extracellular network of Arabidopsis leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases. Nature, 2018; 553 (7688): 342 DOI: 10.1038/nature25184
  2. University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Breakthrough study shows how plants sense the world: This understanding could help commercial crops resist pathogens and drought.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 January 2018. <>.

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