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BMC Genomics. 2018 Feb 12;19(1):132. doi: 10.1186/s12864-018-4506-3.

Molecular dynamics simulations revealed structural differences among WRKY domain-DNA interaction in barley (Hordeum vulgare).

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Plant Biotechnology Unit, ICAR-Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, Karnal, 132001, India.
Present address: Department of Biotechnology, Panjab University Chandigarh, Chandigarh, 160014, India.
School of Biotechnology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 110067, India.
Plant Biotechnology Unit, ICAR-Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, Karnal, 132001, India.



The WRKY transcription factors are a class of DNA-binding proteins involved in diverse plant processes play critical roles in response to abiotic and biotic stresses. Genome-wide divergence analysis of WRKY gene family in Hordeum vulgare provided a framework for molecular evolution and functional roles. So far, the crystal structure of WRKY from barley has not been resolved; moreover, knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of WRKY domain is pre-requisites for exploring the protein-DNA recognition mechanisms. Homology modelling based approach was used to generate structures for WRKY DNA binding domain (DBD) and its variants using AtWRKY1 as a template. Finally, the stability and conformational changes of the generated model in unbound and bound form was examined through atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations for 100 ns time period.


In this study, we investigated the comparative binding pattern of WRKY domain and its variants with W-box cis-regulatory element using molecular docking and dynamics (MD) simulations assays. The atomic insight into WRKY domain exhibited significant variation in the intermolecular hydrogen bonding pattern, leading to the structural anomalies in the variant type and differences in the DNA-binding specificities. Based on the MD analysis, residual contribution and interaction contour, wild-type WRKY (HvWRKY46) were found to interact with DNA through highly conserved heptapeptide in the pre- and post-MD simulated complexes, whereas heptapeptide interaction with DNA was missing in variants (I and II) in post-MD complexes. Consequently, through principal component analysis, wild-type WRKY was also found to be more stable by obscuring a reduced conformational space than the variant I (HvWRKY34). Lastly, high binding free energy for wild-type and variant II allowed us to conclude that wild-type WRKY-DNA complex was more stable relative to variants I.


The results of our study revealed complete dynamic and structural information about WRKY domain-DNA interactions. However, no structure base information reported to date for WRKY variants and their mechanism of interaction with DNA. Our findings highlighted the importance of selecting a sequence to generate newer transgenic plants that would be increasingly tolerance to stress conditions.


Barley; HADDOCK; Molecular dynamics; Molecular modeling; WRKY

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