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Cell Discov. 2018 Jun 19;4:30. doi: 10.1038/s41421-018-0029-y. eCollection 2018.

CARK1 mediates ABA signaling by phosphorylation of ABA receptors.

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1Key Laboratory of Bio-Resources and Eco-Environment of Ministry of Education, State Key Laboratory of Hydraulics and Mountain River Engineering, College of Life Sciences, Sichuan University, Chengdu, 610065 China.
2National Laboratory of Macromolecules, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing, 100101 China.
3Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409 USA.
4Laboratory of Structural Biology and MOE Laboratory of Protein Science, School of Medicine and Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084 China.
5Collaborative Innovation Center for Biotherapy, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy and Cancer Center, West China Hospital, West China Medical School, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China.
Contributed equally


The function of abscisic acid (ABA) is mediated by its receptors termed RCARs/PYR1/PYLs. Modulation of ABA signaling is vital for plant growth and development. The RCAR-PP2C-SnRK2 regulatory modules have been defined as the core components in ABA signaling. However, it is still not clear whether and how the ABA receptors could be modified at the initial post-translational stage to fine-tune ABA transduction pathway. Here we identify and characterize the putative receptor-like cytoplasmic kinase (RLCK) in Arabidopsis named CARK1, which interacts with RCAR3 (PYL8) and RCAR11 (PYR1) in the manner of phosphorylation. Structural studies of CARK1 revealed the critical active site, N204, which accounts for the kinase activity and the direct interaction with RCAR3/RCAR11. CARK1 phosphorylates RCAR3/RCAR11 at one conserved threonine site, T77/T78. Our genetic analyses further demonstrated that CARK1 positively regulates ABA-mediated physiological responses and overexpression of CARK1 in Arabidopsis distinctly promotes the drought resistance. Moreover, the phosphor-mimic form of RCAR11 in the cark1 mutant is able to functionally complement the ABA sensitivity. CARK1 positively regulates ABA-responsive gene expression and enhances RCAR3/RCAR11's inhibition to Clade A PP2C. Taken together, our studies strongly support the functional significance of CARK1 in positively regulating ABA signaling via phosphorylation on RCAR3/RCAR11 in Arabidopsis.

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