Background: Silicon and aluminium oxides make the bulk of agricultural soils. Plants absorb dissolved silicon as silicic acid into their bodies through their roots. The silicic acid moves with transpiration to target tissues in the plant body, where it polymerizes into biogenic silica. Mostly, the mineral forms on a matrix of cell wall polymers to create a composite material. Historically, silica deposition (silicification) was supposed to occur once water evaporated from the plant surface, leaving behind an increased concentration of silicic acid within plant tissues. However, recent publications indicate that certain cell wall polymers and proteins initiate and control the extent of plant silicification. Scope: Here we review recent publications on the polymers that scaffold the formation of biogenic plant silica, and propose a paradigm shift from spontaneous polymerization of silicic acid to dedicated active metabolic processes that control both the location and the extent of the mineralization. Conclusion: Protein activity concentrates silicic acid beyond its saturation level. Polymeric structures at the cell wall stabilize the supersaturated silicic acid and allow its flow with the transpiration stream, or bind it and allow its initial condensation. Silica nucleation and further polymerization are enabled on a polymeric scaffold, which is embedded within the mineral. Deposition is terminated once free silicic acid is consumed or the chemical moieties for its binding are saturated.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 958/21). S.K.’s laboratory is supported by a Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship (BT/RLF/Re-entry/19/2019) from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company. All rights reserved.
- Cell wall
- silicic acid