In a new study in Science, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena and the University of Münster, Germany, describe in detail the biosynthesis and mode of action of diterpene glycosides in wild tobacco plants. Diterpene glycosides allow plants to fend off herbivores. The plant chemicals attack certain parts of the cell membrane. To protect themselves from their own toxins and to prevent their cell membranes from being damaged, tobacco plants store these substances in a non-toxic form, which is synthesized in a very particular way. Autotoxicity and the protection against it seem to play a greater role in the evolution of plant defenses than previously thought.