Claus Wasternack talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's Fast Breaking Paper in the field of Plant
& Animal Science. The author has also sent along
images of their work.
Article Title: Jasmonates: An update on
biosynthesis, signal transduction and action in plant
stress response, growth and development
Journal: ANN BOT
Year: OCT 2007
* Leibniz Inst Plant Biochem, Dept Nat Prod Biotechnol,
Weinberg 3, D-06120 Halle, Saale, Germany.
(addresses have been truncated)
Why do you think your paper is highly cited?
This is an invited review on recent aspects of biosynthesis, signal
transduction, and the action of jasmonates (JAs) in plant stress responses,
growth, and development. JAs became an exponentially growing interest
during the last decade due to their role as important signal in plant
responses to biotic and abiotic stress, and also in hormone regulating
developmental processes such as root growth, tuber formation, and flower
There is a large scientific community interested in news related to the
field of JAs, which regulate plant root growth, pollen fertility, wounding
and healing, and defense against pathogens and insects. Due to a remarkable
crosstalk between signaling pathways of JAs and other plant hormones such
as ethylene, salicylate, or abscisic acid, readers need to have a concise
update on biosynthesis and the action of JAs.
Furthermore, after appearance of the review in Annals of Botany, a
breakthrough in JA research was published on a new protein family active in
a protein complex with the F-box protein COI1 showing putative JA receptor
function. This breakthrough was published by several groups worldwide and
all of them took the review mentioned above as the most recent overview.
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
The review gives a concise overview on JAs. Although distinct aspects of
Jas are frequently reviewed, the Annals of Botany review
summarizes news on the lipoxygenase pathways where JA biosynthesis is one
branch, on JA biosynthesis including regulation and crystal structure of
enzymes, on the metabolic fate of JAs, on structure-activity relationships,
and on action of Jas (as novel anti-cancer agents, as signal in biotic and
abiotic stress, in tuber formation, in tendril coiling and touch, in flower
development, and in senescence). Obviously, this type of synthesis of
knowledge, supported by adequate schemes and pictures, came out at the
Would you summarize the significance of your paper in
The paper is an overview on recent discoveries in biosynthesis and the
action of Jas. These compounds occur exclusively and ubiquitously in plants
and are signaling compounds in defense reactions of plants in response to
stress such as wounding by herbivores. Additionally, they are essential for
proper plant development, e.g., fertility of flowers.
How did you become involved in this research, and were
there any problems along the way?
Eighteen years ago, I became familiar with the work on Jas. At that time,
the director of the Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) Halle, Prof.
Benno Parthier, asked me to lead the JA research at the IPB. Within the
IPB, in parallel to Junichi Ueda's group at Osaka Prefecture University in
Japan, the first physiological effects were observed in the early '80s,
and, at the end of this decade, the first JA-induced alteration of gene
expression was observed by B. Parthier's group with barley leaves showing
so-called JA-induced proteins (JIPs) as abundant proteins upon JA
Later, Clarence A. Ryan's group at Washington State University in Pullman,
WA, showed that synthesis of proteinase inhibitors upon herbivore attack on
tomato leaves was mediated by an airborne signal, the jasmonic acid methyl
ester. From that time on, JAs were identified as signals in many plant
Our own research at IPB Halle was, and is, characterized by a combined use
of molecular genetic, cell-biological, and analytical techniques. This
broad expertise and the unique advance in GC-MS analysis of Jas from the
'80s led to the broad interest of many groups from around the world in
collaborating with the Halle group.
Where do you see your research leading in the
Since I retired last month, my own active research will be finished by the
end of 2008. But the expertise on JAs, for which the IPB Halle is known
worldwide over the past two decades, will be ongoing in terms of tools,
GC-MS analysis of JAs, and new projects by Dr. Bettina Hause (Department of
Secondary Metabolism) and the new head of the Department of Natural Product
Biotechnology, who is currently under nomination.
Do you foresee any social or political implications for
While there are no apparent social and political implications of my
research on JAs, there is an increasing interest worldwide in taking
advantage of JA action in plant-insect interaction for agricultural
Prof. Dr. Claus Wasternack
Director of the research group Mode of Action of Jasmonates
Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry