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Analysis of selenium accumulation, speciation and tolerance of potential selenium hyperaccumulator Symphyotrichum ericoides



Symphyotrichum ericoides was shown earlier to contain hyperaccumulator levels of selenium (Se) in the field (>1000 mg kg−1 dry weight (DW)), but only when growing next to other Se hyperaccumulators. It was also twofold larger next to hyperaccumulators and suffered less herbivory. This raised two questions: whether S. ericoides is capable of hyperaccumulation without neighbor assistance, and whether its Se-derived benefit is merely ecological or also physiological. Here, in a comparative greenhouse study, Se accumulation and tolerance of S. ericoides were analyzed in parallel with hyperaccumulator Astragalus bisulcatus, Se accumulator Brassica juncea and related Asteraceae Machaeranthera tanacetifolia. Symphyotrichum ericoides and M. tanacetifolia accumulated Se up to 3000 and 1500 mg Se kg−1 DW, respectively. They were completely tolerant to these Se levels and even grew 1.5- to 2.5-fold larger with Se. Symphyotrichum ericoides showed very high leaf Se/sulfur (S) and shoot/root Se concentration ratios, similar to A. bisulcatus and higher than M. tanacetifolia and B. juncea. Se X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy showed that S. ericoides accumulated Se predominantly (86%) as C-Se-C compounds indistinguishable from methyl-selenocysteine, which may explain its Se tolerance. Machaeranthera tanacetifolia accumulated 55% of its Se as C-Se-C compounds; the remainder was inorganic Se. Thus, in this greenhouse study S. ericoides displayed all of the characteristics of a hyperaccumulator. The larger size of S. ericoides when growing next to hyperaccumulators may be explained by a physiological benefit, in addition to the ecological benefit demonstrated earlier.