Distributions of Silica and Biopolymer Structural Components in the Spore Elater of Equisetum arvense, an Ancient Silicifying Plant.Front Plant Sci 2019; 10:210FP
Equisetum species are primitive vascular plants that benefit from the biogenesis of silica bio-organic inclusions in their tissues and participate in the annual biosilica turnover in local eco-systems. As means of Equisetum reproduction and propagation, spores are expected to reflect the evolutionary adaptation of the plants to the climatic conditions at different times of the year. Combining methods of Raman and scanning electron microscopy and assisted with density functional theory, we conducted material spatial-spectral correlations to characterize the distribution of biopolymers and silica based structural elements that contribute to the bio-mineral content of the elater. The elater tip has underlying skeletal-like structural elements where cellulose fibers provide strength and flexibility, both of which are necessary for locomotion. The surface of the elater tips is rich with less ordered pectin like polysaccharide and shows a ridged, folded character. At the surface we observe silica of amorphous, colloidal form in nearly spherical structures where the silica is only a few layers thick. We propose the observed expansion of elater tips upon germination and the form of silica including encapsulated biopolymers are designed for ready dispersion, release of the polysaccharide-arginine rich content and to facilitate silica uptake to the developing plant. This behavior would help to condition local soil chemistry to facilitate competitive rooting potential and stem propagation.