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Collective neuron dynamics in animals and plants

Final Activity Report Summary - CONEDAP (Collective neuron dynamics in animals and plants.)

Electrically excitable cells are present in many multicellular organisms, especially in brains of animals, but they are present also in lower animals lacking central nervous system as sponges or in animals having excitable epithelia, which can conduct signals (neuroid conduction) in addition to neurons. Conducted electrical events serve for translation of environmental parameters and cues, obtained via sensory systems, into biological information and processes.

In plants, most cells are electrically excitable and active, releasing and propagating action potentials (APs), which regulate and control such central physiological processes as photosynthesis and respiration. Moreover, electrical signals are believed to play a central role in intercellular and intracellular communication at all levels of evolution from algae, to bryophytes and higher plants. During the realisation of the CONEDAP project the main objective concerned the study of the electrical network dynamics in plant cells. A 60-channels multi-electrode array (MEA) has been applied to study spatiotemporal characteristics of the electrical network activity of the root apex. Both, intense spontaneous electrical activities as well as stimulation-elicited bursts of locally propagating action potentials have been observed. Propagation of APs indicated the existence of excitable travelling waves in plants, similar to those observed in animal electrogenic tissues.

Obtained data revealed synchronous electric activities of root cells, which emerge within specific root apex region. This dynamic electrochemical activity of root apex cells has been proposed to continuously integrate internal and external signalling for developmental adaptations in a changing environment. The results of this study have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.