Root mucilage is gelatinous polysaccharide-containing material exuded from the outer layers of the root cap. Although mucilage has been suggested to play several roles in plant growth, its role in mineral uptake has not been well understood. Melastoma malabathricum L. is an aluminum (Al) accumulator growing in tropical acid soils. This species accumulates more than 10 mg Al g -1 DW in leaves and roots. Root mucilage is generally known to immobilize metal cations such as Al in the rhizosphere. However, we found that roots of M. malabathricum exuded large amounts of mucilage. Using the Zea mays L. mucilage as a control, we have recently shown that mucilage of M. malabathricum has unique physical and chemical characteristics, and facilitates Al uptake in this species. Since M. malabathricum cannot grow well in Al-deficient soil (nonacid soils), this species might have developed a mechanism for Al acquisition. We have also discussed the reason for this species' requirement of Al, a nonessential element.
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