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Plant Physiol. 2007 Jan;143(1):495-503. Epub 2006 Nov 10.

Germanium-68 as an adequate tracer for silicon transport in plants. Characterization of silicon uptake in different crop species.

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Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies, University of Belgrade, 11030 Belgrade, Serbia.


A basic problem in silicon (Si) uptake studies in biology is the lack of an appropriate radioactive isotope. Radioactive germanium-68 ((68)Ge) has been used previously as a Si tracer in biological materials, but its suitability for the study of Si transport in higher plants is still untested. In this study, we investigated (68)Ge-traced Si uptake by four crop species differing widely in uptake capacity for Si, including rice (Oryza sativa), barley (Hordeum vulgare), cucumber (Cucumis sativus), and tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Maintenance of a (68)Ge:Si molar ratio that was similar in the plant tissues of all four plant species to that supplied in the nutrient solution over a wide range of Si concentrations demonstrated the absence of discrimination between (68)Ge and Si. Further, using the (68)Ge tracer, a typical Michaelis-Menten uptake kinetics for Si was found in rice, barley, and cucumber. Compared to rice, the relative proportion of root-to-shoot translocated Si was lower in barley and cucumber and especially in tomato (only 30%). Uptake and translocation of Si in rice, barley, and cucumber (Si accumulators) were strongly inhibited by 2,4-dinitrophenol and HgCl(2), but in tomato, as a Si-excluding species, both inhibitors produced the opposite effect. In conclusion, our results suggest the use of the (68)Ge tracer method as an appropriate choice for future studies of Si transport in plants. Our findings also indicate that the restriction of Si from symplast to apoplast in the cortex of Si excluders is a metabolically active process.

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