Research Article

Plant “helper” immune receptors are Ca2+-permeable nonselective cation channels

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Science  23 Jul 2021:
Vol. 373, Issue 6553, pp. 420-425
DOI: 10.1126/science.abg7917

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Calcium signaling for host cell death

In response to microbial pathogens, some plants kill off their own cells to limit further spread of infection. The Toll/Interleukin-1 receptor/Resistance class of nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat receptors (known as TNLs) function in plants as immune receptors. These TNLs work together with a dedicated set of helper proteins. Jacob et al. reveal the structure of one of these helpers known as NRG1 (N REQUIREMENT GENE 1). The structure resembles a known animal cation channel. The authors demonstrate that helper NLRs directly control calcium ion influx to initiate host cell death, providing a mechanism for TNL outputs.

Science, abg7917, this issue p. 420


Plant nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat receptors (NLRs) regulate immunity and cell death. In Arabidopsis, a subfamily of “helper” NLRs is required by many “sensor” NLRs. Active NRG1.1 oligomerized, was enriched in plasma membrane puncta, and conferred cytoplasmic calcium ion (Ca2+) influx in plant and human cells. NRG1.1-dependent Ca2+ influx and cell death were sensitive to Ca2+ channel blockers and were suppressed by mutations affecting oligomerization or plasma membrane enrichment. Ca2+ influx and cell death mediated by NRG1.1 and ACTIVATED DISEASE RESISTANCE 1 (ADR1), another helper NLR, required conserved negatively charged N-terminal residues. Whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings demonstrated that Arabidopsis helper NLRs form Ca2+-permeable cation channels to directly regulate cytoplasmic Ca2+ levels and consequent cell death. Thus, helper NLRs transduce cell death signals directly.

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