Silicon deposition in roots minimizes the cadmium accumulation and oxidative stress in leaves of cowpea plants

Research paper by Talitha Soares Pereira, Thaís Soares Pereira, Carla Leticia Figueredo de Carvalho Souza, Emilly Juliane Alvino Lima, Bruno Lemos Batista, Allan Klynger da Silva Lobato

Indexed on: 22 Dec '17Published on: 19 Dec '17Published in: Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants


Silicon (Si) frequently accumulates in plants tissues, mainly in roots of dicotyledons, such as cowpea. By contrast, Cadmium (Cd) is a metal that is extremely toxic to plant metabolism. This research aims to investigate if the deposition of Si in root can reduce Cd contents and minimize its negative effects on leaves, measuring gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence, antioxidant metabolism, photosynthetic pigments and growth, which may explain the possible role of Si in the attenuation of Cd toxicity in cowpea. This study had a factorial design, with all factors completely randomized and two Cd concentrations (0 and 500 µM Cd, termed as – Cd and + Cd, respectively) and three Si concentrations (0, 1.25 and 2.50 mM Si). Si reduced Cd contents in the roots and in other plant organs, such as stems and leaves. The Si contents were highest in roots, followed by stems and leaves, which was explained by the passive absorption of Si. The application of Si promoted increase in both the macro- and micronutrient contents in all tissues, suggesting that Si mitigates the effect of Cd on nutrient uptake. Si attenuated Cd-mediated effects on light absorption of photosystem II (PSII), increasing the effective quantum yield of PSII photochemistry and the electron transport rate. Additionally, toxic effects induced by Cd on gas exchange were mitigated by the action of Si. Plants treated with Cd + Si showed increase in the activities of antioxidant enzymes and reductions in oxidant compounds; these modifications were promoted by Si via detoxification mechanisms. Increases in the photosynthetic pigments and growth of plants treated with Si and exposed to Cd stress were detected and were due to the reduced deterioration of cell membranes and maintenance of chloroplasts, which had positive repercussions on growth and development. This study validated the hypothesis that the accumulation of Si in roots induces benefits on metabolism and alleviates the toxic effects caused by Cd in leaves of cowpea.