Silicon is known to promote plant growth as well as stress tolerance of plants. The current study was undertaken to assess the growth promoting effect of silicon on date palm seedling development as well as its ability to abate some of the negative effects of salinity. In this study, date palm seedlings were treated with silicon and sodium chloride salts, and the effect of these salts on some physiological parameters of the plants was determined. In addition, a global nontargeted metabolomics analysis was performed for the leaf and root tissues using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). The results showed that under non-stress conditions, silicon treatment enhanced the growth of the date palm seedlings, however, under salinity, silicon slightly mitigates the negative effects of salt stress on the date palm seedlings although it enhances the potassium accumulation under this condition. The global metabolomics analysis has identified a total of 1,101 significant differentially accumulated (p, q ≤ 0.05) metabolites in leaves and roots under silicon, salinity or their combination. A differential pairwise metabolic profile comparison revealed the accumulation of distinct metabolites in response to silicon and salinity treatments such as antioxidant compounds pyridoxine, cepharanthine, allithiamine, myristic acid and boldine; osmoregulators such as mucic acid; along with the accumulation of detoxification intermediates such as S-D-lactoylglutathione, beta-cyano-L-alanine and gamma-glutamyl-conjugates. In addition, histochemical analyses revealed that application of silicon significantly (p ≤ 0.05) enhanced the formation of the Casparian strip. Identification of the differentially accumulated metabolites could offer an insight into how silicon is able to promote growth and salinity tolerance in date palms.
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