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Genome-wide identification and functional prediction of silicon (Si) transporters in poplar (Populus trichocarpa)

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Plant Biotechnology Reports
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Silicon (Si) enhances plant tolerance to various biotic and abiotic stressors such as salinity, drought, and heat. In addition, Si can be biomineralized within plants to form organic carbon-containing phytoliths that can have ecosystem-level consequences by contributing to long-term carbon sequestration. Si is taken up and transported in plants via different transporter proteins such as influx transporters (e.g., Lsi1, Lsi6) and efflux transporters (e.g., Lsi2). Additionally, the imported Si can be deposited in plant leaves via silicification process using the Siliplant 1 (e.g., Slp1) protein. Functional homologs of these proteins have been reported in different food crops. Here, we performed a genome-wide analysis to identify different Si transporters and Slp1 homologs in the bioenergy crop poplar (Populus trichocarpa Torr. and A. Gray ex W. Hook). We identified one channel-type Si influx transporter (PtLsi1; Potri.017G083300), one Si efflux transporter (PtLsi2; Potri.012G144000) and two proteins like Slp1 (PtSlp1a; Potri.004G168600 and PtSlp1b; Potri.009G129900) in the P. trichocarpa genome. We found a unique sequence (KPKPPVFKPPPVPI) in PtSlp1a which is repeated six times. Repeated presence of this sequence in PtSlp1a indicates that this protein might be important for silicification processes in P. trichocarpa. The mutation profiles of different Si transporters in a P. trichocarpa genome-wide association study population identified significant and impactful mutations in Potri.004G168600 and Potri.009G129900. Using a publically accessible database (, digital expression analysis of the putative Si transporters in P. trichocarpa found low to moderate expression in the anticipated tissues, such as roots and leaves. Subcellular localization analysis found that PtLsi1/PtLsi2 are localized in the plasma membrane, whereas PtSlp1a/PtSlp1b are found in the extracellular spaces. Protein–Protein interaction analysis of PtLsi1/PtLsi2 identified Delta-1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthase (P5CS) as one of the main interacting partners of PtLsi2, which plays a key role in proline biosynthesis. Proline is a well-known participant in biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in plants. These findings will reinforce future efforts to modify Si accumulation for enhancing plant stress tolerance and carbon sequestration in poplar.