Yale researchers detected schizophrenia in plants

In a study published June 2 in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, Yale researchers investigated a gene very similar in both plants and mammals and looked at how it affects behavior in each. Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Comparative Medicine and senior author of the study, has been thinking about this possibility for some time. “Years ago, I started to become interested in this idea that every living organism must have some homology, some similarity in how they are or what they do,” he said.

As he began to study behavior and mitochondria specialized structures within cells that generate energy, this idea kept coming back to him. He thought that if one could alter mitochondrial genes in animals and see what behaviors changed and then try the same thing to similar genes in plants, it might eventually be possible to better understand human behavior through the study of plants. If you take that idea another step, said Horvath, perhaps it’s possible to, for example, develop a schizophrenic-like plant.

For this study, Horvath and his colleagues studied a mitochondrial gene (Friendly Mitochondria, or FMT) found in a small flowering plant called Arabidopsis thaliana and a very similar gene (Clustered mitochondria homolog, or CLUH) found in mice. Mitochondria regulate important functions like metabolism and are critical for maintaining health. In both plants and humans, dysfunctional mitochondria can affect development and lead to disease, including neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and schizophrenia in humans. For the study, the researchers compared typical plants, plants without FMT, and plants with overactive FMT to better understand the gene’s role. They found that it affects many important characteristics, including germination, or seed sprouting, root length, flowering timing, and leaf growth.

They also looked at two important plant behaviors:
The first was the salt stress response. Too much salt can kill plants, so they’ve developed behaviors to avoid it. When there’s excess salt in their environment, plants tend to halt germination, delay flowering, and disrupt root growth. The researchers found that FMT is critical for these salt-avoiding behaviors. The second type of plant behavior they investigated is known as hyponastic behavior — movements based on circadian rhythms. “Plants are tremendously impacted by circadian rhythms because the light is the critical energy source for them,” said Horvath.

Read the complete article at: news.yale.edu 


Publication date:

Receive the daily newsletter in your email for free | Click here

Other news in this sector:

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber