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Other publication in scientific journal2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Those in glass houses

Law, Simon R.


Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. This well-worn proverb tells of the peril of casting criticism from a position of vulnerability. However, there are a number of examples in the natural world where the incorporation of glass (silica or silicon dioxide to be more precise) into the structural make-up of an organism can greatly increase its resilience. Perhaps the best example of this are the diatoms, a hugely successful lineage of microalgae that generate approximately 20% of the oxygen we breathe each year, and encase themselves in an intricate cell wall composed almost entirely of silica. Higher plants too can benefit from this protective cladding, as silica deposited in the tissues of a wide variety of plants has been linked to enhanced resistance to bacterial and fungal infection, as well as increased tolerance to abiotic stresses such as metal toxicity and drought. In this issue of Physiologia Plantarum, Vandegeer et al. (2021) investigated the mechanisms by which silicon deposited in the cells of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) altered the physiology of water transport, revealing applications for enhancing drought tolerance in this economically important pasture grass species.

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Physiologia Plantarum
2021, Volume: 171, number: 3, pages: 307-308
Publisher: WILEY

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