Aluminium (Al) and silicon (Si) are abundant in soils, but their availability for plant uptake is limited by low solubility. However, Al toxicity is a major problem in naturally occurring acid soils and in soils affected by acidic precipitation. When, in 1995, we reviewed this topic for the Journal of Experimental Botany, it was clear that under certain circumstances soluble Si could ameliorate the toxic effects of Al, an effect mirrored in organisms beyond the plant kingdom. In the 25 years since our review, it has become evident that the amelioration phenomenon occurs in the root apoplast, with the formation of hydroxyaluminosilicates being part of the mechanism. A much better knowledge of the molecular basis for Si and Al uptake by plants and of Al toxicity mechanisms has been developed. However, relating this work to amelioration by Si is at an early stage. It is now clear that co-deposition of Al and Si in phytoliths is a fairly common phenomenon in the plant kingdom, and this may be important in detoxification of Al. Relatively little work on Al/Si interactions in field situations has happened in the last 25 years, and this is a key area for future development.
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Hodson, Martin J.Evans, David E.
Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
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