Listening in on someone else’s conversation

This paper in Science, investigated molecular conversation between a parasitic plant, dodder (C. pentagona), and two host plants, by sequencing all three transcriptomes.


Genes, defined segments of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), must be “read” and copied (transcribed) into RNA (ribonucleic acid). These gene readouts are called transcripts, and a transcriptome is a collection of all the gene readouts present in a cell, The major type, of gene readout is called messenger RNA (mRNA), which plays a vital role in making proteins that can have a profound impact on an organism. The production of these proteins can vary, depending on both environmental and genetic influences.

The researchers found thousands of mRNAs moving in a bidirectional manner between species. These transcripts represented thousands of different genes. Researchers think this molecular conversation might allow the parasitic plant to direct the host plant to dampen its defense responses.

Since we also contain ancient, and potentially active viral or bacterial transcriptomes in our genes, at least some of the voices we hear are real.