Tentacles of in vitro-grown round-leaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia L.) show induction of chitinase activity upon mimicking the presence of prey

Planta. 2005 Dec;222(6):1020-7. doi: 10.1007/s00425-005-0047-5. Epub 2005 Jul 28.


Induction of plant-derived chitinases in the leaves of a carnivorous plant was demonstrated using aseptically grown round-leaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia L.). The presence of insect prey was mimicked by placing the chemical inducers gelatine, salicylic acid and crustacean chitin on leaves. In addition, mechanical stirring of tentacles was performed. Chitinase activity was markedly increased in leaf exudates upon application of notably chitin. Application of gelatine increased the proteolytic activity of leaf exudates, indicating that the reaction of sundew leaves depends on the molecular nature of the inducer applied. In situ hybridization of sundew leaves with a Drosera chitinase probe showed chitinase gene expression in different cell types of non-treated leaves, but not in the secretory cells of the glandular heads. Upon induction, chitinase mRNA was also present in the secretory cells of the sundew leaf. The combined results indicate that chitinase is likely to be involved in the decomposition of insect prey by carnivorous plants. This adds a novel role to the already broad function of chitinases in the plant kingdom and may contribute to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind the ecological success of carnivorous plants in nutritionally poor environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chitinases / biosynthesis*
  • Drosera / cytology
  • Drosera / enzymology*
  • Drosera / physiology
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Insecta
  • Plant Leaves / cytology
  • Plant Leaves / enzymology
  • RNA, Plant / analysis


  • RNA, Plant
  • Chitinases