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J Biol Chem. 2010 Sep 10;285(37):28902-11. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.116657. Epub 2010 Jul 7.

The lysin motif receptor-like kinase (LysM-RLK) CERK1 is a major chitin-binding protein in Arabidopsis thaliana and subject to chitin-induced phosphorylation.

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Department of Plant Cell Biology, Albrecht-von-Haller-Institute of Plant Sciences, Georg-August-University Goettingen, Untere Karspuele 2, D-37073 Goettingen, Germany.


Plants detect potential pathogens by sensing microbe-associated molecular patterns via pattern recognition receptors. In the dicot model plant Arabidopsis, the lysin motif (LysM)-containing chitin elicitor receptor kinase 1 (CERK1) has been shown to be essential for perception of the fungal cell wall component chitin and for resistance to fungal pathogens. Recent in vitro studies with CERK1 protein expressed heterologously in yeast suggested direct chitin binding activity. Here we show in an affinity purification approach that CERK1 is a major chitin-binding protein of Arabidopsis cells, along with several known and putative chitinases. The ectodomain of CERK1 harbors three distinct LysM domains with potential ligand binding capacity. We demonstrate that the CERK1 ectodomain binds chitin and partially deacetylated chitosan directly without any requirement for interacting proteins and that all three LysM domains are necessary for chitin binding. Ligand-induced phosphorylation events are a general feature of animal and plant signal transduction pathways. Our studies show that chitin, chitin oligomers, and chitosan rapidly induce in vivo phosphorylation of CERK1 at multiple residues in the juxtamembrane and kinase domain. Functional analyses with a kinase dead variant provide evidence that kinase activity of CERK1 is required for its chitin-dependent in vivo phosphorylation, as well as for early defense responses and downstream signaling. Collectively, our data suggest that in Arabidopsis, CERK1 is a major chitin, chitosan, and chito-oligomer binding component and that chitin signaling depends on CERK1 post-translational modification and kinase activity.

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