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Venus flytrap trigger hairs are micronewton mechano-sensors that can detect small insect prey

Abstract

Venus flytraps detect moving insects via highly sensitive, action potential (AP)-producing trigger hairs, which act as high-sensitivity levers, crucial for prey capture and digestion. Controlled stimulation revealed that they can trigger APs for deflections >2.9°, angular velocities >3.4° s–1 and forces >29 µN. Hairs became desensitized and subsequently responded to fast consecutive stimulations; desensitization increased at lower temperatures. Recording of ant trigger hair contact events revealed that even small insects exceed the hairs’ sensitivity threshold.

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Data availability

The authors declare that all data supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper. Further information and requests for resources and reagents should be directed to, and will be fulfilled by, the lead contact, R. Hedrich (hedrich@botanik.uni-wuerzburg.de).

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a DFG Koselleck grant (no. 415282803) to R.H. It was also supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement (no. 642861) to W.F., and the International Research Group Program (no. IRG14-08), Deanship of Scientific Research, King Saud University (to R.H. and K.Al-R.).

Author information

S.S., W.F., K.Al-R. and R.H. designed the research. S.S. and W.F. performed the research. S.S., W.F. and R.H. analysed the data. S.S., W.F. and R.H. wrote the paper.

Correspondence to S. Scherzer or W. Federle or R. Hedrich.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information: Nature Plants thanks Edward Farmer, Yoel Forterre, Jean-Marie Frachisse and Daniel Robert for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Video legends and Supplementary Figs. 1–2.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Video 1

WT Dionaea trap stimulated twice by strong deflection followed by trap closure. Similar results were obtained for at least 101 different traps.

Supplementary Video 2

Basmati Dionaea trap stimulated twice by strong deflection followed by trap closure. Please note the absence of trigger hairs in this mutant. Similar results were obtained for all 51 different traps.

Supplementary Video 3

Ants walking across a fixed Dionaea leaf filmed with a Nikon D750 Digital SLR camera (mounted at 90° to the leaf surface) at 60 frames s–1 (78.5 pixels mm–1). Trigger hair deflection events were digitized, allowing calculation of three-dimensional tip movement and hence of the hair’s angular deflection. Example of n = 46 biologically independent contacts is shown.

Supplementary Video 4

Intact Dionaea trap was fixed (left) and a trigger hair was deflected by movement of the motor-driven force transducer (right). Stimulations were performed with varying motor amplitudes and velocities. In parallel, the applied force and the trap surface/extracellular potential were measured (20 frames s–1). Example for motorized trigger hair stimulation.

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Fig. 1: Flytrap APs are elicited via touch-sensitive trigger hairs.
Fig. 2: Dionaea AP desensitization.