The supplementation of monosilicic acid [Si(OH)4] to the root growing medium is known to protect plants from toxic levels of iron (Fe), copper (Cu) and manganese (Mn), but also to mitigate deficiency of Fe and Mn. However, the physicochemical bases of these alleviating mechanisms are not fully understood. Here we applied low-T electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to examine the formation of complexes of Si(OH)4 with Mn(2+), Fe(3+), and Cu(2+) in water and in xylem sap of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) grown without or with supply of Si(OH)4. EPR, which is also useful in establishing the redox state of these metals, was combined with measurements of total concentrations of metals in xylem sap by inductive coupled plasma. Our results show that Si(OH)4 forms coordination bonds with all three metals. The strongest interactions of Si(OH)4 appear to be with Cu(2+) (1/1 stoichiometry) which might lead to Cu precipitation. In line with this in vitro findings, Si(OH)4 supply to cucumber resulted in dramatically lower concentration of this metal in the xylem sap. Further, it was demonstrated that Si(OH)4 supplementation causes pro-reductive changes that contribute to the maintenance of Fe and, in particular, Mn in the xylem sap in bioavailable 2+ form. Our results shed more light on the intertwined reactions between Si(OH)4 and transition metals in plant fluids (e.g. xylem sap).
Keywords: Cucumius sativus L; EPR; Monosilicic acid; Transition metals; Xylem sap.