Evidence for Active Uptake and Deposition of Si-based defenses in Tall Fescue

Emma McLarnon, Simon John McQueen Mason, Ingo Lenk, Susan E Hartley

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Silicon (Si) is taken up from the soil as monosilicic acid by plant roots, transported to leaves and deposited as phytoliths, amorphous silica (SiO2) bodies, which are a key component of anti-herbivore defense in grasses. Silicon transporters have been identified in many plant species, but the mechanisms underpinning Si transport remain poorly understood. Specifically, the extent to which Si uptake is a passive process, driven primarily by transpiration, or has both passive and active components remains disputed. Increases in foliar Si concentration following herbivory suggest plants may exercise some control over Si uptake and distribution. In order to investigate passive and active controls on Si accumulation, we examined both genetic and environmental influences on Si accumulation in the forage grass Festuca arundinacea. We studied three F. arundinacea varieties that differ in the levels of Si they accumulate. Varieties not only differed in Si concentration, but also in increases in Si accumulation in response to leaf damage. The varietal differences in Si concentration generally reflected differences in stomatal density and stomatal conductance, suggesting passive, transpiration-mediated mechanisms underpin these differences. Bagging plants after damage was employed to minimize differences in stomatal conductance between varieties and in response to damage. This treatment eliminated constitutive differences in leaf Si levels, but did not impair the damage-induced increases in Si uptake: damaged, bagged plants still had more leaf Si than undamaged, bagged plants in all three varieties. Preliminary differential gene expression analysis revealed that the active Si transporter Lsi2 was highly expressed in damaged unbagged plants compared with undamaged unbagged plants, suggesting damage-induced Si defenses are regulated at gene level. Our findings suggest that although differences in transpiration may be partially responsible for varietal differences in Si uptake, they cannot explain damage-induced increases in Si uptake and deposition, suggesting that wounding causes changes in Si uptake, distribution and deposition that likely involve active processes and changes in gene expression.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1199
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017, McLarnon, McQueen-Mason, Lenk and Hartley.

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