Statistical analyses of plant metabolites allow solid testing of plant defense theories

High-throughput analyses of small substances in Nicotiana attenuata reveal that plants re-organize their metabolism to produce highly-specific defense metabolites after insect attack. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, and at the CNRS Institute of Plant Molecular Biology, France, combined extensive measurements of known and unknown plant metabolites using mass spectrometry with statistical measures derived from information theory and demonstrated that plants regulate their metabolism directionally to produce effective defenses.