Messenger substance

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Messenger substances are chemical substances that are used for signal transmission or chemical communication ( chemical communication ). They can develop their effect within an organism , between the individuals of a species or between different species. Other names are also mediator, signal substance, elicitor , semiochemical or infochemical.

Messenger substances are fundamentally important for the interaction and communication between cells and tissues within an organism. In plants, messenger substances regulate, among other things, growth and development as well as their own protection, e.g. B. from pathogens or predators.

The communication between the organisms often takes place via chemical messenger substances, the so-called semiochemicals. In the case of semiochemicals, a general distinction is made between pheromones and allelochemicals . While pheromones are used for communication between organisms of one species ( intraspecific ), allelochemicals convey information between different species ( interspecific ). When it comes to allelochemicals, a distinction is made between allomones that are useful for the sender, kairomones that are useful for the recipient, and synomones that are useful for both.

Examples of an interspecific effect are

  • the ability of some plants to attract parasites of plant pests via certain allomones .
  • the luring of moths as prey by a species of spider using a sex pheromone.

Examples of messenger substances and their effects

Examples of messenger substances and their effects
Messenger or signal substance Place of work Mode of action effect
human hormone Cells or tissues in the body Hormone acts via receptor molecule on the cell surface ( signal transduction ) Control of metabolic processes in the body by thyroid -hormones, including thyroglobulin
Hormone penetrates the cell (for example steroids) and reacts there with receptor protein (for example sex hormones such as androgens or estrogens )
plant (Volatile) organic compounds Cells or tissue in the plant and / or other organisms Biosynthesis of certain substances, such as proteinase inhibitors in tomatoes Delay in the growth and development of the pests
Biosynthesis and subsequent emission of volatile organic compounds, such as terpenoids in the maize plant Active attraction of parasites or persecutors of harmful insects (tritrophic interaction)
insect Pheromone Individuals of the same species Triggering a certain behavior (e.g. attractants or warning substances; releaser pheromones with a short-term effect) Mass attack by honey bees after a previous sting ( sting pheromone )
Triggering a physiological change (not necessarily in behavior; primer pheromones with long-lasting effects) Prevention of the rearing of a queen in honey bees through queen substance

Classes of messenger substances

The messenger substances can be divided into different functional groups or according to their function and effect, whereby the classification often has smooth transitions or is quite arbitrary:

Groups of messenger substances
group Remarks, properties Example (s) credentials
Hormones Are synthesized in the organism and transmit signals or messages to organs, tissues or cell groups, which may be more or less far away from the place of formation, which have certain physiological effects on their function; Here, hormones do not act directly, but indirectly, for example by changing the enzyme concentration
Cairomones Messenger substances for communication between different species (so-called allelochemicals ) that only benefit the receiving organism (“recipient”) z. B. Plant fragrances that show insects the way to the host plant (as a food source)
Neurotransmitters Messenger substances of the nervous system that excite or inhibit nerve cells; narrow local effect; Neuropeptides ( cytokines ; special neurotransmitters of the brain); regulate the strength of certain reactions; Endorphins , for example, inhibit severe pain, but can also convey feelings of happiness and relaxation after strenuous physical exertion
Parahormones Messenger substances that in some way do not meet all of the criteria necessary to define a hormone Carbon dioxide: acts as a communication substance in the context of breathing regulation
Pheromones Are excreted in the environment and trigger a certain effect or behavior; In contrast to the allomones, pheromones work between individuals of the same species (intraspecific) Pheromones, for example, also influence how people live together
Phytohormones Messenger substances in plants; influence growth and differentiation processes Ethylene , auxins ; In low concentrations, auxins stimulate growth and development processes such as cell division and cell elongation in the plant. In plants, ethylene is involved in growth processes and stress reactions

Subdivision according to function and effect

Subdivision of messenger substances (semiochemicals) according to their function and effect
effect Substance class Name and effect Example (s) credentials
Intraspecific Pheromones Primer : physiological change Primer pheromones of bees
Intraspecific Pheromones Releaser : behavior change Sex pheromones
Interspecific Allelochemicals Allomone : advantage for the producing organism or harm to the recipient Antibiotics, toxins, antifeeding flavorings in plants
Interspecific Allelochemicals Kairomones : Beneficial for the receiving organism
Interspecific Allelochemicals Synomone : advantage for the producing and receiving organism Floral scent
Interspecific Allelochemicals Apneumone : released by abiotic substrates; can be beneficial to recipients and detrimental to substrate- dwelling organisms

With regard to their chemical nature, many messenger substances are peptides , steroids , amino acid derivatives , isoprene derivatives , aldehydes ( benzaldehyde , salicylaldehyde ) or acids such as benzoic acid , to name just a few.


Individual evidence

  1. a b Claus Wasternack & Bettina home (2000): stress defense and development: jasmonats - chemical signals in plants. In: Biology in Our Time. Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 312-320, doi : 10.1002 / 1521-415X (200011) 30: 6 <312 :: AID-BIUZ312> 3.0.CO; 2-8 .
  2. Uwe Conrath & Heinrich Kauss (2000): Systemically acquired resistance - the "immune system" of the plant. In: Biology in Our Time. Vol. 30, No. 4, pp. 202-208, doi : 10.1002 / 1521-415X (200007) 30: 4 <202 :: AID-BIUZ202> 3.0.CO; 2-1 .
  3. Albert Gossauer: Structure and reactivity of biomolecules: An introduction to organic chemistry . Helvetica Chimica Acta, 2006, ISBN 978-3-906390-29-1 , p. 133 ff .
  4. ^ Stefan Schulz (1997): The chemistry of spider venom and spider silk. In: Angewandte Chemie . Vol. 109, No. 4, pp. 324-337, doi : 10.1002 / ange.19971090404 .
  5. G. Czihak, H. Langer, H. Ziegler (eds.): Biology - a textbook . Springer Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-540-61557-1 .
  6. Johannes Huber, Elisa Gregor: The power of the hormones. Verlag Droemer / Knaur, 2005, ISBN 3-426-66974-9 .
  7. ^ Albert Gossauer: Structure and reactivity of biomolecules , Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta, Zurich, 2006, p. 133, ISBN 978-3-906390-29-1 .
  8. Michael Angrick (1983): Endorphins. In: Pharmacy in our time. Vol. 12, No. 5, pp. 129-134. doi : 10.1002 / pauz.19830120501
  9. Joachim W. Deitmer (2000): Energy flow in the brain. How glial cells make neurons strong. In: Biology in Our Time . Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 333-340, doi : 10.1002 / 1521-415X (200011) 30: 6 <333 :: AID-BIUZ333> 3.0.CO; 2-X .
  10. G. Czihak, H. Langer, H. Ziegler (eds.): Biology - a textbook . Springer Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-540-61557-1 .
  11. Udo Pollmer, Andrea Fock, Ulrike Gonder, Karin Haug: Love goes through the nose. What influences and guides our behavior. Publishing house Kiepenheuer and Witsch, Cologne 2001, ISBN 3-462-03011-6 .
  12. Klaus Grossmann & Hauke ​​Hansen (2003): Auxin herbicides: active ingredients with a Janus face. In: Biology in Our Time. Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 12-20, doi : 10.1002 / biuz.200390002 .
  13. Donald A. Nordlund: Semiochemicals: a review of the terminology. In: Semiochemicals: Their Role in Pest Control. DA Nordlund, RL Jones, WJ Lewis (Eds.), John Wiley & Sons, New York 1981, pp. 13-28, ISBN 0-471-05803-3 .
  14. N. Koeniger, HJ Veith: Specificity of a brood pheromone and brood recognition in the honey bee (Apis Mellifera L.). In: Apidology. 15, 1984, pp. 205-210, doi : 10.1051 / apido: 19840208 .
  15. Adolf Butenandt, Rüdiger Beckmann, Erich Hecker: About the sexual attractant of the silk moth, I. The biological test and the isolation of the pure sexual attractant bombykol. In: Hoppe-Seyler's journal for physiological chemistry. 324, 1961, pp. 71-83, doi : 10.1515 / bchm2.1961.324.1.71 .
  16. Ursula Klaschka: Trace substances influence living together , Nachrichten aus der Chemie 59 ( 2011 ) 613–618.