Why do distance limitations exist on plant-plant signaling via airborne volatiles?

Christopher J. Frost, Mark C. Mescher, John E. Carlson, Consuelo M. De Moraes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Plant volatiles are known to mediate many important ecological interactions between plants and insects. Plants themselves have also been shown to perceive volatile signals, but the short transmission distances documented thus far in nature raise questions about the ecological significance of plant-to-plant signaling. Recently, we reported that herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) can function within an individual plant to overcome vascular constraints on systemic wound signaling. Within-plant signaling is consistent with the limited distances over which HIPVs have been shown to be perceived by plants. However, it remains unclear why these distance limitations should exist. Such limitations cannot be explained by volatile transport distance alone, since parasitoids respond to HIPVs over much greater distances. Thus, we suggest that the apparent distance limitations on plant-to-plant volatile signaling may arise from the mechanisms by which volatile signals are received by plants. These limitations may reflect physiological constraints on plants' ability to perceive volatiles or an adaptive mechanism to avoid responding to signals from other plants. Distinguishing between these possibilities will require additional research into the mechanisms of signal reception, about which little is currently known. Deciphering the ecological significance of HIPVs as phytohormones depends on understanding the mechanisms of HIPV reception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-468
Number of pages3
JournalPlant Signaling and Behavior
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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