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Science 311 (5762): 812-815

Copyright © 2006 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Volatile Signaling in Plant-Plant Interactions: "Talking Trees" in the Genomics Era

Ian T. Baldwin,1* Rayko Halitschke,2 Anja Paschold,1 Caroline C. von Dahl,1 Catherine A. Preston3

Abstract: Plants may "eavesdrop" on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by herbivore-attacked neighbors to activate defenses before being attacked themselves. Transcriptome and signal cascade analyses of VOC-exposed plants suggest that plants eavesdrop to prime direct and indirect defenses and to hone competitive abilities. Advances in research on VOC biosynthesis and perception have facilitated the production of plants that are genetically "deaf" to particular VOCs or "mute" in elements of their volatile vocabulary. Such plants, together with advances in VOC analytical instrumentation, will allow researchers to determine whether fluency enhances the fitness of plants in natural communities.

1 Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans Knöll Strasse 8, Jena 07745, Germany.
2 Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, E443 Corson Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
3 Biotechnology Regulatory Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, MD 20737, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: baldwin{at}

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