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Science. 2012 Jun 1;336(6085):1160-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1218867.

Chitin-induced dimerization activates a plant immune receptor.

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Graduate Program in Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100730, China.


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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