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Science 335 (6064): 85-88

Copyright © 2012 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Molecular Mimicry Regulates ABA Signaling by SnRK2 Kinases and PP2C Phosphatases

Fen-Fen Soon,1,2,* Ley-Moy Ng,1,2,* X. Edward Zhou,1,* Graham M. West,3 Amanda Kovach,1 M. H. Eileen Tan,1,2 Kelly M. Suino-Powell,1 Yuanzheng He,1 Yong Xu,1 Michael J. Chalmers,3 Joseph S. Brunzelle,4 Huiming Zhang,5 Huaiyu Yang,6 Hualiang Jiang,6 Jun Li,1,2 Eu-Leong Yong,2 Sean Cutler,7 Jian-Kang Zhu,5 Patrick R. Griffin,3 Karsten Melcher,1,{dagger} H. Eric Xu1,8,{dagger}

Abstract: Abscisic acid (ABA) is an essential hormone for plants to survive environmental stresses. At the center of the ABA signaling network is a subfamily of type 2C protein phosphatases (PP2Cs), which form exclusive interactions with ABA receptors and subfamily 2 Snfl-related kinase (SnRK2s). Here, we report a SnRK2-PP2C complex structure, which reveals marked similarity in PP2C recognition by SnRK2 and ABA receptors. In the complex, the kinase activation loop docks into the active site of PP2C, while the conserved ABA-sensing tryptophan of PP2C inserts into the kinase catalytic cleft, thus mimicking receptor-PP2C interactions. These structural results provide a simple mechanism that directly couples ABA binding to SnRK2 kinase activation and highlight a new paradigm of kinase-phosphatase regulation through mutual packing of their catalytic sites.

1 Laboratory of Structural Sciences, Van Andel Research Institute, 333 Bostwick Avenue NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, USA.
2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, National University Hospital, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore 119228.
3 Department of Molecular Therapeutics, Translational Research Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Florida, 130 Scripps Way No. 2A2, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA.
4 Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry, Life Sciences Collaborative Access Team (LS-CAT), Synchrotron Research Center, Northwestern University, Argonne, IL 60439, USA.
5 Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
6 Center for Drug Discovery and Design, State Key Laboratory of Drug Research, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 201203, China.
7 Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California at Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.
8 VARI-SIMM Center, Center for Structure and Function of Drug Targets, State Key Laboratory of Drug Research, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 201203, People’s Republic of China.

* These authors contributed equally to this work.

{dagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: eric.xu{at} (H.E.X.); Karsten.Melcher{at} (K.M.)

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