Activation Mechanism of Strigolactone Receptors and Its Impact on Ligand Selectivity between Host and Parasitic Plants

Jiming Chen, David C. Nelson, Diwakar Shukla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parasitic weeds such as Striga have led to significant losses in agricultural productivity worldwide. These weeds use the plant hormone strigolactone as a germination stimulant. Strigolactone signaling involves substrate hydrolysis followed by a conformational change of the receptor to a "closed" or "active" state that associates with a signaling partner, MAX2/D3. Crystal structures of active and inactive AtD14 receptors have helped elucidate the structural changes involved in activation. However, the mechanism by which the receptor activates remains unknown. The ligand dependence of AtD14 activation has been disputed by mutagenesis studies showing that enzymatically inactive receptors are able to associate with MAX2 proteins. Furthermore, activation differences between strigolactone receptor in Striga, ShHTL7, and AtD14 could contribute to the high sensitivity to strigolactones exhibited by parasitic plants. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we demonstrate that both AtD14 and ShHTL7 could adopt an active conformation in the absence of ligand. However, ShHTL7 exhibits a higher population in the inactive apo state as compared to the AtD14 receptor. We demonstrate that this difference in inactive state population is caused by sequence differences between their D-loops and interactions with the catalytic histidine that prevent full binding pocket closure in ShHTL7. These results indicate that ligand hydrolysis would enhance the active state population by destabilizing the inactive state in ShHTL7 as compared to AtD14. We also show that the mechanism of activation is more concerted in AtD14 than in ShHTL7 and that the main barrier to activation in ShHTL7 is closing of the binding pocket.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1712-1722
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 11 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Computer Science Applications


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