The University of Buffalo discovered an amazing property of plants. Evolutionary processes have endowed them with the ability to produce chemicals that can be used solely for personal purposes. Plants cannot choose a mate for procreation, hunt or hide in the shade, or flee from pursuit like the animals do. But they have a unique ability to produce certain chemicals.
Namely, the toxins that destroy bacteria, bitter alkaloids that drive herbivores away, sweet nectar that attracts insects and birds that can spread seeds. The chemicals made by plants are one way to make love or war. In a recent study, experts examined the evolution of the Haredia.
That is an evergreen shrub with white flowers, considered an ornamental plant. The scientists were able to first determine the sequence of the genome. And they also managed to find out the complete process of the formation of the chemical compound of crocin. That is a chemical that gives a red-orange tint to ripe gardenia fruits.
The genes that participated in the creation of that chemical laid the foundation to its own production of a chemical that has medicinal properties as an antioxidant. In a plant, a process called tandem gene duplication takes place - random copying of the DNA gives organisms the flexibility to expand the arsenal of genetic tools that they have at their disposal.
That is one of many other ways when plants can develop new opportunities. A biologist Victor Albert believes that plants have the ability to duplicate some parts of their genetic apparatus and at the same time slightly change the functions, including physical properties.
The molecular tricks that plants use on their own are important to both traditional Chinese medicine and modern biomedical research in bioinformatics, that helped to uncover the evolutionary history of the crocin synthesis in gardenia. Studying the characteristics of different plants, researchers distinguish their chemical component, which can be useful for human health as well.