Elizabeth Pilon-Smits

Elizabeth Pilon-SmitsProfessor
Office: Biology building 446
Phone: 970-491-4991
Website: https://wp.natsci.colostate.edu/pilonsmitslab
Education: Ph.D., Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Email: Elizabeth.Pilon-Smits@ColoState.EDU

In the Pilon-Smits lab we do multidisciplinary research that ranges from cells to whole plants to ecosystems. An important common denominator is selenium (Se): an essential element with anticarcinogenic properties, but also a toxin and environmental pollutant. We study plant Se tolerance and accumulation using genetic/genomic tools and biotechnology and biochemistry. At the same time, we are very interested in ecological and evolutionary aspects of Se hyperaccumulation: the capacity of certain species to accumulate Se up to 1% of dry weight. Our findings indicate that Se hyperaccumulation has evolved as a protection from biotic stresses. A better understanding of plant Se metabolism and hyperaccumulation may ultimately lead to the development of pathogen- and pest-resistant, anticarcinogenic, Se-fortified crops, and plants with superior properties for the phytoremediation of Se-polluted soils and waters. A recent topic of interest in our lab is hemp phytoremediation and biofortification, with a focus on Se. Our hyperaccumulator research is funded by the National Science Foundation, and our hemp research by New Belgium Brewing and Patagonia.

Selected Publications

Cochran AT, Bauer J*, Metcalf JL, Lovecka P, Sura-de Jong M, Warris S, Mooijman PJW, van der Meer I, Knight R, Pilon-Smits EAH (2018) Plant selenium hyperaccumulation affects rhizosphere: Enhanced species richness and altered species composition. Phytobiomes 2: 82-91

Reynolds RJB, Pilon-Smits EAH (2018) Plant Selenium Hyperaccumulation - Ecological Effects and Potential Contribution to Selenium Cycling and Community Structure. Biochimica Biophysica Acta General Topics 1862: 2372-2382 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbagen.2018

Lima LW, Pilon-Smits EAH, Schiavon M (2018) Mechanisms of selenium hyperaccumulation in plants: a survey of molecular, biochemical and ecological cues. Biochimica Biophysica Acta General Topics 1862: 2343-2353 doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2018.03.028.

Lindblom SD, Wangeline AL, Valdez Barillas JR, deVilbiss B*, Fakra SC, Pilon-Smits EAH (2018) Fungal Endophyte Alternaria tenuissima can affect Growth and Selenium Accumulation in its Hyperaccumulator Host Astragalus bisulcatus. Frontiers in Plant Science 9: 1213 doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.01213

Jiang Y, El Mehdawi AF, Tripti, Lima LW, Stonehouse G, Fakra SC, Hu Y, Qi H, Pilon-Smits EAH (2018) Characterization of Selenium Accumulation, Localization and Speciation in Buckwheat-Implications for Biofortification. Frontiers in Plant Science, 9:1583. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.01583

Pilon-Smits EAH (2017) Mechanisms of plant selenium hyperaccumulation. In: Pilon-Smits EAH, Winkel LHE, Lin ZQ (Eds.) Selenium in plants. Molecular, Physiological, Ecological and Evolutionary Aspects, Springer, ISBN 9783319562483, pp 53-69

El Mehdawi AF, Jiang Y, Guignardi ZS, Esmat A*, Pilon M, Pilon-Smits EAH, Schiavon M (2018) Influence of sulfate supply on selenium uptake dynamics and expression of sulfate/selenate transporters in selenium hyperaccumulator and non-hyperaccumulator Brassicaceae. New Phytologist 217:194-205

Wang J, Cappa JJ, Harris J, Edger PP, Zhou W, Pires JC, Adair M*, Unruh SA*, Schiavon M, Simmons MP, Pilon-Smits EAH (2018) Transcriptome-wide analysis of selenium-responsive genes in hyperaccumulator Stanleya pinnata and nonaccumulator Stanleya elata. Plant Biotechnology Journal 16: 1582-1594 https://doi.org/10.1111/pbi.12897

Jiang Y, Schiavon M, Lima LW, Tripti, Jones RR*, El Mehdawi AF, Royer S, Zeng Z, Hua Y, Pilon-Smits EAH, Pilon M (2018) Comparison of ATP sulfurylase 2 from selenium hyperaccumulator Stanleya pinnata and non-accumulator Stanleya elata reveals differential intracellular localization and enzyme activity levels. Biochimica Biophysica Acta General Topics 1862: 2363-2371. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2018.03.014

Schiavon M, Pilon-Smits EAH, Malagoli M, Dalla Vecchia F (2016) Comparative effects of selenate and selenite on selenium accumulation, morpho-physiology and glutathione synthesis in Ulva australis. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 23: 15023-15032

Fisher B, Yarmolinsky D, Abdel-Ghany S, Pilon M, Pilon-Smits EAH, Sagi M, Van Hoewyk D (2016) Superoxide generated from the glutathione-mediated reduction of selenite damages the iron-sulfur cluster of chloroplastic ferredoxin. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 106: 228-235

Schiavon M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2017) Selenium biofortification and phytoremediation phytotechnologies - A review. Journal of Environmental Quality 46:10-19

Schiavon M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2017) Tansley review: The Fascinating Facets of Plant Selenium Accumulation - Biochemistry, Physiology, Evolution and Ecology. New Phytologist 213:1582-1596

Reynolds RJB, Cappa JJ, Pilon-Smits EAH (2017) Evolutionary aspects of plant selenium accumulation. In: Pilon-Smits EAH, Winkel LHE, Lin ZQ (Eds.) Selenium in plants. Molecular, Physiological, Ecological and Evolutionary Aspects, Springer, ISBN 9783319562483, pp 189-2092.

Quinn CF, El Mehdawi AF, Pilon-Smits EAH (2017) Ecology of selenium in plants. In: Pilon-Smits EAH, Winkel LHE, Lin ZQ (Eds.) Selenium in plants. Molecular, Physiological, Ecological and Evolutionary Aspects, Springer, ISBN 9783319562483, pp 177-189

Sura-de Jong M, Reynolds RJ, Richterova K, Musilova L, Hrochova I, Frantik T, Sakmaryova I, Strejcek M, Cochran A, Staicu L, Cappa JJ, van der Lelie D, and Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Selenium hyperaccumulators harbor a diverse endophytic bacterial community characterized by extreme selenium tolerance and plant growth promoting properties. Frontiers in Plant Science 6:113

DeTar RA, Alford ER, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Molybdenum accumulation, tolerance and molybdenum-selenium-sulfur interactions in Astragalusselenium hyperaccumulator and nonaccumulator species. Journal of Plant Physiology 183: 32-40

Staicu LC, Ackerson CJ, ..., Reynolds JRB, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015Pseudomonas moraviensis stanleyae: a bacterial endophyte capable of efficient selenite reduction to elemental selenium under aerobic conditions.Journal of Applied Microbiology 119: 400-410

Ni TW, Staicu L, Schwartz C, Crawford D, Nemeth RS, Seligman JD, Hunter WJ, Pilon-Smits EAH, Ackerson CJ (2015) Progress toward clonable inorganic nanoparticles. NanoscaleDOI: 10.1039/c5nr04097c.

Schiavon M, Berto C, Malagoli M, Trentin A, Sambo P, Dall'Acqua S, Pilon-Smits EAH (2016) Selenium biofortification in radish enhances nutritional quality via accumulation of methyl-selenocysteine and promotion of transcripts and metabolites related to glucosinolates, phenolics and amino acids. Frontiers in Plant Science 7:1371

Malagoli M, Schiavon M, Dall'Acqua S, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Effects of selenium biofortification in food nutritional quality.Frontiers in Plant Science 6:280

Staicu LC, van Hullebusch ED, Lens PNL, Pilon-Smits EAH, Oturan MA (2015) Electrocoagulation of colloidal biogenic selenium. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 22: 3127-37

Schiavon M, Pilon M, Malagoli M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Exploring the importance of sulfate transporters and ATP sulfurylases for selenium hyperaccumulation - A comparison of Stanleya pinnata and Brassica juncea (Brassicaceae). Frontiers in Plant Science 6(2):13

Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Selenium in plants. Progress in Botany (Luettge, U, Ed.) Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany, pp 93-107

El Mehdawi AF, Lindblom SD, Cappa JJ, Fakra SC, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Do selenium hyperaccumulators affect selenium speciation in neighboring plants and soil? An X-Ray Microprobe Analysis. International Journal of Phytoremediation 17: 753-65  

Winkel LHE, Vriens B, Jones GD, Schneider LS, Pilon-Smits EAH, Banuelos GS (2015) Selenium cycling across soil-plant-atmosphere interfaces: a critical review. Nutrients 7(1), DOI:10.3390/nu70x000x

Staicu LC, Ackerson CJ, Hunter WJ, Cornelis P, Ye L, Berendsen RL, Noblitt SD, Henry CS, Cappa JJ, Montanieri RL, Wong AO, Musilova L, Sura-de Jong M, Lens PNL, Reynolds JRB, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Pseudomonas moraviensis stanleyae: a bacterial endophyte capable of efficient selenite reduction to elemental selenium under aerobic conditions. Journal of Applied Microbiology 119: 400-410

Yasin M, El Mehdawi AF, Jahn CE, Turner MFS, Faisal M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Seleniferous soils as source of selenium biofortified food. Plant and Soil 386: 385-394. DOI 10.1007/s11104-014-2270-y

El Mehdawi AF, Paschke M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Symphyotrichum ericoides populations from seleniferous and non- seleniferous soil display striking variation in selenium accumulation. New Phytologist 206: 231-242

Schiavon M, Pilon M, Malagoli M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Exploring the importance of sulfate transporters and ATP sulfurylases for selenium hyperaccumulation – A comparison of Stanleya pinnata and Brassica juncea (Brassicaceae). Frontiers in Plant Science 6(2):13

Sura-de Jong M, Reynolds RJ, Richterova K, Musilova L, Hrochova I, Frantik T, Sakmaryova I, Strejcek M, Cochran A, Staicu L, Cappa JJ, van der Lelie D, and Pilon-Smits EAH (2015) Selenium hyperaccumulators harbor a diverse endophytic bacterial community characterized by extreme selenium tolerance and plant growth promoting properties. Frontiers in Plant Science 6:113

Yasin M, El-Mehdawi AF; Anwar A, Pilon-Smits EAH, Faisal M (2015) Microbial-enhanced selenium and iron biofortification of wheat (Triticum aestivum) – Applications in phytoremediation and biofortification. International Journal of Phytoremediation 17: 341–347

Cappa JJ, Yetter C, Fakra SF, Cappa PJ, DeTar R, Landes C, Pilon-Smits EAH, Simmons MP (2015) Evolution of selenium hyperaccumulation in Stanleya (Brassicaceae) as inferred from phylogeny, physiology and x-ray microprobe analysis. New Phytologist 205: 583-595

Alford ER, Lindblom SD, Pittarello M, Freeman JL, Fakra SC, Marcus MA, Broeckling C, Pilon-Smits EAH, Paschke MW (2014) Roles of Rhizobial symbionts in Astragalus selenium hyperaccumulation. American Journal of Botany 101: 1895-1905

El Mehdawi AF, Reynolds RJB, Prins CN, Lindblom SD, Cappa JJ, Fakra SC, Pilon-Smits EAH (2014) Analysis of selenium accumulation, speciation and tolerance of potential selenium hyperaccumulator Symphyotrichum ericoides. Physiologia Plantarum 152: 70–83

Cappa JJ, Cappa PJ, El Mehdawi AF, McAleer JM, Simmons MP, Pilon-Smits EAH (2014) Characterization of selenium and sulfur accumulation in Stanleya (Brassicaceae). A field survey and common-garden experiment. American Journal of Botany 101: 830–839

Cappa JJ, Pilon-Smits EAH (2014) Evolutionary aspects of hyperaccumulation. Planta 239: 267–275

Harris J, Schneberg KA, Pilon-Smits EAH (2014) Sulfur - selenium - molybdenum interactions distinguish selenium hyperaccumulator Stanleya pinnata from non-hyperaccumulator Brassica juncea (Brassicaceae). Planta 239: 479-491

Lindblom SD, Fakra SC, Landon J*, Schulz P*, Tracy B*, Pilon-Smits EAH (2013) Co-cultivation of Astragalus racemosus and Astragalus convallarius with selenium-hyperaccumulator rhizosphere fungi: Effects on plant growth and accumulation of selenium and other elements. Planta 237: 717-729

Freeman JL, Marcus MA, Fakra SC, Devonshire J, McGrath SP, Pilon-Smits EAH (2012) Seeds of Selenium Hyperaccumulators Stanleya pinnata and Astragalus bisulcatus are colonized by Se-resistant, Se-excluding wasp and beetle herbivores. PLoS ONE 7(12) e50516

Alford ER, Pilon-Smits EAH, Marcus MA, Fakra SC, Paschke MW (2012) No evidence for a cost of tolerance: Selenium hyperaccumulation by Astragalus does not inhibit root nodule symbiosis. American Journal of Botany 99: 1930-1941

Valdez Barillas JR, Quinn CF, Freeman JL, Lindblom SD, Marcus MS, Fakra SC, Gilligan TM, Alford ER, Wangeline AL, Pilon-Smits EAH (2012) Selenium distribution and speciation in hyperaccumulator Astragalus bisulcatus and associated ecological partners. Plant Physiology 159: 1834–1844

Lindblom SD, Valdez-Barillas JR, Fakra SC, Marcus MA, Wangeline AL, Pilon-Smits EAH (2013) Influence of Microbial Associations on Selenium Localization and Speciation in Roots of Astragalus and Stanleya. Experimental and Environmental Botany 88: 33– 42

El Mehdawi AF, Cappa JJ, Fakra SC, Self J, Pilon-Smits EAH (2012) Interactions of Selenium and Non-accumulators during Co-cultivation on Seleniferous or Non-Seleniferous Soil – The Importance of Having Good Neighbors. New Phytologist 194: 264–277

Quinn CF, Prins CN, Gross AM, Hantzis L, Reynolds RJB, Freeman JL, Yang SI, Covey PA, Bañuelos GS, Pickering IJ, Fakra SF, Marcus MA, Arathi HS, Pilon-Smits EAH (2011) Selenium Accumulation in Flowers and its Effects on Pollination. New Phytologist 192: 727–737

Valdez-Barilla JR, Quinn CF, Pilon-Smits EAH (2011) Selenium accumulation in plants - phytotechnological applications and ecological implications.   International Journal of Phytoremediation 13(S1): 166-178

Wangeline AL, Valdez JR, Lindblom SD, Bowling KL, Reeves FB, Pilon-Smits EAH (2011) Selenium tolerance in rhizosphere fungi from Se hyperaccumulator and non-hyperaccumulator plants.  American Journal of Botany 98:  1139-1147

Prins CN, Hantzis LJ, Quinn CF, Pilon-Smits EAH (2011) Effects of Selenium accumulation on reproductive functions in Brassica juncea and Stanleya pinnata. Journal of Experimental Botany 62: 5233-5239

El-Mehdawi AF, Pilon-Smits EAH (2012) Ecological Aspects of Plant Selenium Hyperaccumulation. Plant Biology, in press. doi:10.1111/j.1438-8677.2011.00535.x

El-Mehdawi AF, Quinn CF, Pilon-Smits EAH (2011) Selenium Hyperaccumulators Facilitate Selenium-Tolerant Neighbors via Phytoenrichment and Reduced Herbivory. Current Biology 21: 1440-1449

El-Mehdawi AF, Quinn CF, Pilon-Smits EAH (2011) Effects of selenium hyperaccumulation on plant-plant interactions: Evidence for elemental allelopathy? New Phytologist 191: 120-131

Bãnuelos GS, Walse SS, Pickering IJ, Fakra SC, Marcus MA, Pilon-Smits EAH, Yang SI, Freeman JL (2011) Localization, chemical speciation, and semi-quantification of selenium in cactus pear, Opuntia ficus-indica, grown in saline drainage sediment. Plant Physiology 155: 315-327

Quinn CF, Wyant K, Wangeline AL, Shulman J*, Galeas ML, Valdez JR, Paschke MW, Pilon-Smits EAH (2010) Selenium hyperaccumulation increases leaf decomposition rate in a seleniferous habitat. Plant and Soil 341: 51-61

Alford, EA, Pilon-Smits EAH, Paschke M (2010) Metallophytes – a view from the rhizosphere. Plant and Soil  337: 33-50

Quinn CF, Freeman JL, Reynolds RJB*, Lindblom SD, Cappa JJ, Fakra SF, Marcus MA, Pilon-Smits EAH (2010) Selenium hyperaccumulation offers protection from cell disruptor herbivores BMC Ecology 10:19

Freeman JL, Tamaoki M, Stushnoff C, Quinn CF, Cappa JJ, Devonshire J, Fakra S, Marcus MA, McGrath S, Van Hoewyk D, Pilon-Smits EAH (2010) Molecular mechanisms of selenium tolerance and hyperaccumulation in Stanleya pinnata. Plant Physiology 153: 1630-1652

Pilon-Smits EAH, Quinn CF (2010) Selenium Metabolism in Plants. In: Plant Cell Monographs, 2010, Volume 17, “Cell Biology of Metals and Nutrients”, Hell R, Mendel R, eds. pp 225-241

Zhu Y-G, Pilon-Smits EAH, Zhao F-J, Williams PN, Meharg AA (2009) Selenium in higher plants: Understanding mechanisms for biofortification and phytoremediation. Trends in Plant Science 19: 436-442

Pilon-Smits EAH, Quinn CF, Tapken W, Malagoli M, Schiavon M (2009)  Physiological functions of beneficial elements. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 12: 267-274

Pilon-Smits EAH, LeDuc DL (2009) Phytoremediation of selenium using transgenic plants. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 20: 207-212

Freeman JL, Quinn CF, Lindblom SD, Klamper EM, Pilon-Smits EAH (2009) Selenium protects the hyperaccumulator Stanleya pinnata against black-tailed prairie dog herbivory in native seleniferous habitats. American Journal of Botany 96: 1075-1085

Van Hoewyk D, Takahashi H, Hess A, Tamaoki M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2008) Transcriptome and biochemical analyses give insights into selenium-stress responses and selenium tolerance mechanisms in Arabidopsis. Physiologia Plantarum 132: 236-253

Galeas ML, Klamper EM*, Bennett LE, Freeman JL, Kondratieff BC, Pilon-Smits EAH (2008) Selenium hyperaccumulation affects plant arthropod load in the field. New Phytologist 177:715-724

Tamaoki M, Freeman JL, Pilon-Smits EAH (2008) Cooperative ethylene and jasmonic acid signaling regulates selenite resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiology 146: 1219-1230

Quinn CF, Freeman JF, Galeas ML, Klamper EM, Pilon-Smits EAH (2008) Selenium protects plants from prairie dog herbivory - Implications for the functional significance and evolution of Se hyperaccumulation. Oecologia 155:267-75

Van Hoewyk D, Abdel-Ghany SE, Cohu C, Herbert S, Kugrens P, Pilon M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2007) The Arabidopsis cysteine desulfurase CpNifS is essential for maturation of iron-sulfur cluster proteins, photosynthesis, and chloroplast development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104: 5686-5691

Murthy N, Ollagnier-de-Choudens S, Sanakis Y, Abdel-Ghany SE, Rousset C, Ye H, Fontecave M, Pilon-Smits EAH, Pilon M (2007) Characterization of Arabidopsis thaliana SufE2 and SufE3: Functions in Chloroplast Iron-Sulfur Cluster Assembly and NAD Synthesis. Journal of Biological Chemistry 282: 18254-18264

Freeman JL, Lindblom SD*, Quinn CF, Fakra S, Marcus MA, Pilon-Smits EAH (2007) Selenium accumulation protects plants from herbivory by orthoptera due to toxicity and deterrence. New Phytologist 175: 490-500

Galeas ML, Zhang LH, Freeman JL, Wegner M*, Pilon-Smits EAH (2007) Seasonal fluctuations of selenium and sulfur accumulation in selenium hyperaccumulators and related non-accumulators. New Phytologist 173: 517-525

Freeman JL, Quinn CF, Marcus MA, Fakra S, Pilon-Smits EAH (2006) Selenium-tolerant diamondback moth disarms hyperaccumulator plant defense. Current Biology 16: 2181-2192

Zhang L-H, Abdel-Ghany SE, Freeman JL, Ackley AR*, Schiavon, M, Pilon-Smits EAH (2006) Investigation of selenium tolerance mechanisms in Arabidopsis thaliana. Physiologia Plantarum 128: 212-223

Freeman JL, Zhang LH, Marcus MA, Fakra S, McGrath SP, Pilon-Smits EAH (2006) Spatial imaging, speciation and quantification of selenium in the hyperaccumulator plants Astragalus bisulcatus and Stanleya pinnata. Plant Physiology 142: 124-134

Pilon-Smits EAH, Freeman JL (2006) Environmental Cleanup using Plants: Biotechnological Advances and Ecological Considerations. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 4: 203-210

Pilon-Smits EAH (2005) Phytoremediation. Annual Reviews in Plant Biology 56:15-39

Ye H, Abdel-Ghany SE, Anderson TD, Pilon-Smits EAH, Pilon M (2006) Iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis in chloroplasts. CpSufE activates CpNifS cysteine desulfurase activity. Journal of Biological Chemistry 281: 8958-8969

Bauelos G, Terry N, LeDuc DL, Pilon-Smits EAH, Mackey B (2005) Field trial of transgenic Indian mustard plants shows enhanced phytoremediation of selenium-contaminated sediment. Environmental Science and Technology 39: 1771-1777

Lindblom SD, Abdel-Ghany SE, Hanson BR, Hwang S, Terry N, Pilon-Smits EAH (2006) Constitutive expression of a high-affinity sulfate transporter in Brassica juncea affects metal tolerance and accumulation. Journal of Environmental Quality, 35: 726-733

Abdel-Ghany SE, Ye H, Garifullina GF, Zhang L, Pilon-Smits EAH, Pilon M (2005) Iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis in chloroplasts: Involvement of the scaffold protein CpIscA. Plant Physiology 138: 161-172

Zhang L-H Byrne PF, Pilon-Smits EAH (2006) Mapping quantitative trait loci associated with selenate tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana. New Phytologist 170: 33-42

Van Hoewyk D, Garifullina GF, Ackley AR, Abdel-Ghany SE, Marcus MA, Fakra S, Ishiyama K, Inoue E, Pilon M, Takahashi H, Pilon-Smits EAH (2005) Overexpression of AtCpNifS enhances selenium tolerance and accumulation in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology 139: 1518-1528