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Science Ticker

Why a parasitic vine can’t take a bite out of tomatoes

tomatoes on the vine

Tomatoes sense the attacks of parasitic vines by the proteins they secrete. 

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Like botanical vampires, dodder plants (Cuscuta sp.) suck the life out of crops around the world.  But tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are mysteriously immune to the parasitic vine’s attacks.

To figure out how they do it, a research team from England and Germany hit tomatoes and three other plant species with C. reflexa extract in the lab. Tomatoes totally overreacted, producing stress hormones to protect itself from the parasite, while the other plants failed to mount a defense.

This suggests that tomatoes treat the dodder like a virus, taking cues from parasite proteins as a warning system, the team writes July 28 in Science. This sensitivity traces to a receptor that senses the presence of a small protein released by dodder plants.

This probably isn’t the only defense option. Some wild tomato species can fend off dodder even though they’re missing the gene behind the receptor, the researchers note. Still, the findings could prove useful in protecting other crops from vampiric vines through genetic engineering

Planetary Science

Rosetta spacecraft has stopped listening for Philae lander

By Emily Conover 2:30pm, July 27, 2016
Rosetta is no longer listening for communications from the comet lander Philae.
Animals,, Conservation

Neonicotinoids are partial contraceptives for male honeybees

By Susan Milius 7:08pm, July 26, 2016
Male honeybees produce less living sperm if raised on pollen tainted with neonicotinoids, tests show.

Science News reporters answer your questions about aging

By Science News Staff 12:36pm, July 26, 2016
Three Science News reporters will answer questions related to a special issue on aging in a Reddit AMA on Tuesday, July 26, at 3 p.m. EDT.
Animals,, Health,, Science & Society

Getting rid of snails is effective at stopping snail fever

By Amy McDermott 2:00pm, July 21, 2016
For the tropical disease snail fever, managing host populations is more effective than drugs.
Particle Physics,, Cosmology,, Physics

Latest search for dark matter comes up empty

By Emily Conover 4:30am, July 21, 2016
Scientists continue to come up empty-handed in the search for dark matter. The latest effort from the LUX experiment found no evidence for dark matter.
Animals,, Ecology

Some primates prefer nectar with a bigger alcohol kick

By Helen Thompson 2:00pm, July 20, 2016
Aye-ayes and slow lorises may be able to discern the alcohol content of boozy nectar and go for more potent drinks.
Planetary Science

40 years ago, Viking 1 pioneered U.S. exploration on Mars

By Christopher Crockett 7:00am, July 20, 2016
Forty years ago, Viking 1 became the first U.S. mission to land safely on the surface of Mars.
Cancer,, Health

IVF doesn’t up long-term breast cancer risk, study says

By Helen Thompson 11:38am, July 19, 2016
A Dutch study of more than 25,000 women over two decades suggests that IVF-treated women are no more likely to get breast cancer than other women.
Health

First case of woman-to-man spread of Zika via sex reported

By Meghan Rosen 11:33am, July 15, 2016
The first known case of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus has been reported in New York City.
Health

Risk of travelers to Olympics sparking new Zika outbreaks low

By Meghan Rosen 12:26pm, July 13, 2016
Just four countries — Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea and Yemen — bear a substantial risk of bringing Zika virus home from the Olympics and having it spread, the CDC says.
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