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J Biol Chem. 2011 Apr 1;286(13):11202-10. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.186171. Epub 2011 Jan 4.

Structure-function similarities between a plant receptor-like kinase and the human interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase-4.

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Laboratory of Plant Microbe Interactions, INRA-CNRS, BP 52627, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan Cedex, France.


Phylogenetic analysis has previously shown that plant receptor-like kinases (RLKs) are monophyletic with respect to the kinase domain and share an evolutionary origin with the animal interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase/Pelle-soluble kinases. The lysin motif domain-containing receptor-like kinase-3 (LYK3) of the legume Medicago truncatula shows 33% amino acid sequence identity with human IRAK-4 over the kinase domain. Using the structure of this animal kinase as a template, homology modeling revealed that the plant RLK contains structural features particular to this group of kinases, including the tyrosine gatekeeper and the N-terminal extension α-helix B. Functional analysis revealed the importance of these conserved features for kinase activity and suggests that kinase activity is essential for the biological role of LYK3 in the establishment of the root nodule nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with rhizobia bacteria. The kinase domain of LYK3 has dual serine/threonine and tyrosine specificity, and mass spectrometry analysis identified seven serine, eight threonine, and one tyrosine residue as autophosphorylation sites in vitro. Three activation loop serine/threonine residues are required for biological activity, and molecular dynamics simulations suggest that Thr-475 is the prototypical phosphorylated residue that interacts with the conserved arginine in the catalytic loop, whereas Ser-471 and Thr-472 may be secondary sites. A threonine in the juxtamembrane region and two threonines in the C-terminal lobe of the kinase domain are important for biological but not kinase activity. We present evidence that the structure-function similarities that we have identified between LYK3 and IRAK-4 may be more widely applicable to plant RLKs in general.

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