Silicon Transporters in Higher Plants

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Abstract

Silicon (Si) is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and exerts beneficial effects on plant growth and production by alleviating both biotic and abiotic stresses including diseases, pests, lodging, drought and nutrient imbalance. Silicon is taken up by the roots in the form of silicic acid, a noncharged molecule. Recently both influx (Lsi1) and efflux (Lsi2) transporters for silicic acid have been identified in gramineous plants including rice, barley and maize. Lsi1 and its homologs are influx Si transporters, which belong to a Nod26-like major intrinsic protein (NIP) subfamily in the aquaporin protein family. They are responsible for the transport of Si from the external solution to the root cells. On the other hand, Lsi2 and its homologs are efflux Si transporters, belonging to putative anion transporters and are responsible for the transport of Si out of the cells toward the xylem. All influx transporters show polar localization at the distal side. Among efflux transporters, Lsi2 in rice shows polar localization at the proximal side, but that in barley and maize does not show polar localization. The cell-specificity of localization of Si transporters and expression patterns are different between species. Rice Si transporters are also permeable to arsenite.