Does the degree of pectin esterification influence aluminium sorption by the root apoplast?
This study investigates the influence of the degree of pectin esterification (DE) on the sorption of aluminium (Al) by plant roots. Ca-pectates, with varying degrees of esterification, are major constituents of the soil–root interface and of the root apoplast. Ca-pectate networks (Ca–PG and Ca–Al–PG) were formed at three DEs (0%, 26%, 65%) with custom-made cells and used as a model system for the root cell wall. Sorption of Al was conducted for 24 h at a range of oxalic acid concentrations (0–500 μM) at pH 4.50 to examine two different metal resistance mechanisms of plants. In fact, plants release organic acids either to desorb or to complex metals to prevent their sorption by plant roots.Thermal analysis showed that Al sorption did not seem to affect the stability of the pectate gels and the presence of hydrophobic groups (–CH 3 ) at DE > 0% seemed to even increase the stability of the gels decreasing thermal decomposition. Results suggest two potential Al tolerance mechanisms: (a) high oxalic acid concentrations (500 μM) were able to desorb almost 100% and 72% at DE 65 and 0%, respectively; (b) high oxalic acid concentrations (500 μM) and thus molar ratios of 5:1 (oxalate/Al) reduced Al sorption by 98% and 86% at DE 65 and 0%, respectively. In conclusion, both mechanisms indicate that high degrees of esterification as 65% are much more efficient in excluding Al from the apoplast and might therefore contribute to Al resistance in plants.