Structure-function analysis identifies highly sensitive strigolactone receptors in Striga

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Science  09 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6257, pp. 203-207
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9476

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Striga uses a hypersensitive receptor

The strigolactone hormones govern plant growth and development. A nasty parasitic weed, Striga, senses traces of these hormones to identify its targets. After functionally characterizing several strigolactone receptors from Striga, Toh et al. solved the crystal structure of one that is especially sensitive. The structure shows an unexpectedly large ligand-binding pocket, which may explain how Striga manages to sense picomolar concentrations of the range of strigolactones.

Science, this issue p. 203


Strigolactones are naturally occurring signaling molecules that affect plant development, fungi-plant interactions, and parasitic plant infestations. We characterized the function of 11 strigolactone receptors from the parasitic plant Striga hermonthica using chemical and structural biology. We found a clade of polyspecific receptors, including one that is sensitive to picomolar concentrations of strigolactone. A crystal structure of a highly sensitive strigolactone receptor from Striga revealed a larger binding pocket than that of the Arabidopsis receptor, which could explain the increased range of strigolactone sensitivity. Thus, the sensitivity of Striga to strigolactones from host plants is driven by receptor sensitivity. By expressing strigolactone receptors in Arabidopsis, we developed a bioassay that can be used to identify chemicals and crops with altered strigolactone levels.

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