Using aphids to measure electrical outputs in ferns

Ronin Institute
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/4845
Raised of $1,500 Goal
Funded on 6/21/15
Successfully Funded
  • $1,560
  • 104%
  • Funded
    on 6/21/15

About This Project

Long-distance electrical signals in plants are a key aspect of their physiology, but still remain a frontier in Biology. To understand this phenomenon, we need to make comparative studies that require data from several plant species. This project will contribute to understanding the diversity of long-distance electrical signalling in plants, while providing valuable information about the physiology of ferns.

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What is the context of this research?

A lack of suitable tools to measure long-distance electrical signals in plants has contributed to the slow progress in this area of plant physiology. There are still many missing critical pieces of knowledge: what is the genetic basis for this phenomenon? Do all plants make similar electrical signals, or have they evolved this aspect of their physiology independently? What are the real stimuli that induce these electrical signals?

Recently, I published the description and application of a new method for in vivo plant electrophysiology: the Electrical Penetration Graph (EPG) technique. A non-invasive technique that allows for intracellular recordings of plant vascular cells, EPG is a significant contribution to the toolkit for investigating the transmission of electrical signals in plants.

What is the significance of this project?

Fast, long distance electrical signals contribute to functional coherence in multicellular organisms. In plants, these signals alert the whole plant for localized stimuli, such as a feeding insect. We believe these signals play a critical role in adapting plants to the environment. We need comparative studies of electrical transmission in plants because this information will accelerate our knowledge of green electrical circuits.

Electrical signals in plants are functionally linked to plant defense, so data on electrical transmission in one organism may help the research on electrical transmission in other organisms.

What are the goals of the project?

I will characterize and compare the biophysical parameters of biologically and non-biologically induced long-distance electrical signals in the living vasculature (a.k.a. the phloem) of a fern.

Once the fern genome is sequenced, we will be able to look for the genetic basis of these electrical signals, i.e. do all plants use the same genes to make these signals or have different engines evolved independently in the plant kingdom to produce and transmit these signals?


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The budget breakdown assumes that I would do the work in my current institution in Germany. However, if it is not possible to import fern aphids from a tropical area, the funds will contribute to purchase the air ticket to travel and do the work where these aphids are, or to another lab in another country that allows the import of these aphids. The PC laptop will also be purchased with these funds. The software for data acquisition only runs on PCs.

If you donate, you will have access to updated videos so that you can follow the progress of this research. As well, I would acknowledge the names of the donors in any article arising from the project!

Endorsed by

Electrical signals in plants are poorly understood, as most plant signalling research examines the much slower chemical signals. Vicenta is an innovative researcher who is extending our knowledge of electrical signalling in plants. Her work will help establish a much stronger focus for work in this potentially useful field.
This project sounds fascinating. Dr. Salvador-Recatala spent several years in my lab, and I believe she is eminently qualified to pursue this work. I endorse it, and her, wholeheartedly.

Meet the Team

Vicenta Salvador Recatala
Vicenta Salvador Recatala

Team Bio

Since I can remember, I have always been fascinated by plants and animals. I am a biologist (B.Sc. University of Valencia, Spain) with a Ph.D. in Physiology (University of Alberta, Canada). I have researched the molecular biophysics of ion channels for over 14 years. Past projects include: the molecular biophysics of cardiac potassium channels from the sea squirt Ciona intestinalis (Ph.D. work) and the biophysics and modulation of calcium channels from schistosomes (post-doctoral work).

In 2011, I made a transition from animal to plant electrophysiology with a challenging project on whole-plant electrophysiology. For this project, I conceptualised a new type of intracellular electrode that selectively targets the cells of the plant vasculature. I validated this tool by using it to characterising the long-distance electrical signals in the phloem of the model species Arabidopsis thaliana.

In my free time, I enjoy hiking and nature walks, films, music, and reading.

Additional Information

Article in New Phytologist (2014)

Project Backers

  • 21Backers
  • 104%Funded
  • $1,560Total Donations
  • $57.00Average Donation
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