Physiological and biochemical mechanisms of silicon-induced copper stress tolerance in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.)
Aqueous Si limits Cu uptake by a Si-accumulating plant via physicochemical mechanisms occurring at the root level. Sufficient Si supply may alleviate Cu toxicity in Cu-contaminated soils. Little information is available on the role of silicon (Si) in copper (Cu) tolerance while Cu toxicity is widespread in crops grown on Cu-contaminated soils. A hydroponic study was set up to investigate the influence of Si on Cu tolerance in durum wheat (Triticum turgidum L.) grown in 0, 0.7, 7.0 and 30 µM Cu without and with 1.0 mM Si, and to identify the mechanisms involved in mitigation of Cu toxicity. Si supply alleviated Cu toxicity in durum wheat at 30 µM Cu, while Cu significantly increased Si concentration in roots. Root length, photosynthetic pigments concentrations, macroelements, and organic anions (malate, acetate and aconitate) in roots, were also increased. Desorption experiments, XPS analysis of the outer thin root surface (≤100 Å) and µXRF analyses showed that Si increased adsorption of Cu at the root surface as well as Cu accumulation in the epidermis while Cu was localised in the central cylinder when Si was not applied. Copper was not detected in phytoliths. This study provides evidences for Si-mediated alleviation of Cu toxicity in durum wheat. It also shows that Si supplementation to plants exposed to increasing levels of Cu in solution induces non-simultaneous changes in physiological parameters. We propose a three-step mechanism occurring mainly at the root level and limiting Cu uptake and translocation to shoots: (i) increased Cu adsorption onto the outer thin layer root surface and immobilisation in the vicinity of root epidermis, (ii) increased Cu complexation by both inorganic and organic anions such as aconitate and, (iii) limitation of translocation through an enhanced thickening of a Si-loaded endodermis.