Chitin-Induced Dimerization Activates a Plant Immune Receptor

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Science  01 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6085, pp. 1160-1164
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218867

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Pattern recognition receptors confer plant resistance to pathogen infection by recognizing the conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns. The cell surface receptor chitin elicitor receptor kinase 1 of Arabidopsis (AtCERK1) directly binds chitin through its lysine motif (LysM)–containing ectodomain (AtCERK1-ECD) to activate immune responses. The crystal structure that we solved of an AtCERK1-ECD complexed with a chitin pentamer reveals that their interaction is primarily mediated by a LysM and three chitin residues. By acting as a bivalent ligand, a chitin octamer induces AtCERK1-ECD dimerization that is inhibited by shorter chitin oligomers. A mutation attenuating chitin-induced AtCERK1-ECD dimerization or formation of nonproductive AtCERK1 dimer by overexpression of AtCERK1-ECD compromises AtCERK1-mediated signaling in plant cells. Together, our data support the notion that chitin-induced AtCERK1 dimerization is critical for its activation.

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