Osmoelectric siphon models for signal and water dispersal in wounded plants

J Exp Bot. 2023 Feb 13;74(4):1207-1220. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erac449.


When attacked by herbivores, plants produce electrical signals which can activate the synthesis of the defense mediator jasmonate. These wound-induced membrane potential changes can occur in response to elicitors that are released from damaged plant cells. We list plant-derived elicitors of membrane depolarization. These compounds include the amino acid l-glutamate (Glu), a potential ligand for GLUTAMATE RECEPTOR-LIKE (GLR) proteins that play roles in herbivore-activated electrical signaling. How are membrane depolarization elicitors dispersed in wounded plants? In analogy with widespread turgor-driven cell and organ movements, we propose osmoelectric siphon mechanisms for elicitor transport. These mechanisms are based on membrane depolarization leading to cell water shedding into the apoplast followed by membrane repolarization and water uptake. We discuss two related mechanisms likely to occur in response to small wounds and large wounds that trigger leaf-to-leaf electrical signal propagation. To reduce jasmonate pathway activation, a feeding insect must cut through tissues cleanly. If their mandibles become worn, the herbivore is converted into a robust plant defense activator. Our models may therefore help to explain why numerous plants produce abrasives which can blunt herbivore mouthparts. Finally, if verified, the models we propose may be generalizable for cell to cell transport of water and pathogen-derived regulators.

Keywords: DAMP; PAMP; drought; electrical signal; elicitor; insect; jasmonate; mandibles; turgor; water potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cyclopentanes / metabolism
  • Herbivory
  • Oxylipins / metabolism
  • Plants* / metabolism
  • Water* / metabolism


  • jasmonic acid
  • Water
  • Oxylipins
  • Cyclopentanes