Spying on plants–electrical communications using aphids

Last updated: 23 May, 2014

In a recent study published in New Phytologist by Salvador-Recatalà et al., aphids have been used to tap into the plant phloem communication system. Recording the electrical signals which travel through the phloem is normally an intricate procedure, using extremely fragile electrodes; however using aphid stylets, which are more flexible and not easily dislodged, enabled Salvador-Recatalà et al., to discover that the nibbling of caterpillars induces electrical signals which are similar to those transmitted by wounding.


Aphid infestation on rose. Photo: Drriss and Marrionn,CC BY-NC-SA

Aphid infestation on rose. Photo: Drriss and Marrionn, CC BY-NC-SA.


These findings suggest that the plant electrical signalling network functions through the same mechanics that neurons rely on, using molecular building blocks to construct a response network.


The article has been highlighted by Malcolm Campbell, New Phytologist Advisor and Professor & Vice-Principal Research at University of Toronto, in several online articles:



Salvador-Recatalà V, Tjallingii WF and Farmer EE. 2014. Real-time, in vivo intracellular recordings of caterpillar-induced depolarization waves in sieve elements using aphid electrodes. New Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.12807