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J Exp Bot. 2001 Jun;52(359):1339-52.

The role of root exudates in aluminium resistance and silicon-induced amelioration of aluminium toxicity in three varieties of maize (Zea mays L.).

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  • 1Laboratorio de Fisiología Vegetal, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra, Spain.


Aluminium (Al) toxicity is widely considered to be the most important growth-limiting factor for plants in strongly acid soils (pH<5.0). The inhibition of root elongation in three varieties of maize (Zea mays L. vars Clavito, HS701b and Sikuani) was followed over the first 48 h of Al treatment, and during the initial 10 h elongation was determined on an hourly basis. The silicon (Si)-induced amelioration of Al toxicity was investigated by pre-treating seedlings for 72 h in nutrient solutions with 1000 microM Si before transfer into solutions with 0, 20 or 50 microM Al (without Si). Plants were either grown in complete low ionic strength nutrient solutions (CNS) or in low salt solutions of 0.4 mM CaCl2 (LSS). In addition, the role of root exudation of organic compounds as a mechanism of Si-induced alleviation of Al toxicity was investigated. Aluminium-induced inhibition of root elongation in the maize var. HS701b was observed within 1 h of Al exposure. After a lag time of at least 8 h, Si-induced alleviation of Al toxicity was observed in this variety when grown in LSS. In the Al-resistant var. Sikuani, Al-resistance was only observed after exposure to 50 microM Al, and not after exposure to 20 microM Al, suggesting that there exists a threshold Al concentration before the mechanisms of Al resistance are activated. Aluminium stimulated root exudation of oxalic acid in all three varieties, but exudate concentrations did not increase with either Al resistance or with Si pretreatment. Aluminium and Si triggered release of catechol and of the flavonoid-type phenolics: catechin, and quercetin. In the Al-resistant variety, Sikuani, Al-exposed plants pretreated with Si exuded up to 15 times more phenolics than those plants not pretreated with Si. The flavonoid-type phenolics, to date unconsidered, appear to play a role in the mechanism(s) of Si-induced amelioration of Al toxicity.

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