Detecting N-myristoylation and S-acylation of host and pathogen proteins in plants using click chemistry

Patrick C. Boyle, Simon Schwizer, Sarah R. Hind, Christine M. Kraus, Susana Torre Diaz, Bin He, Gregory B. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The plant plasma membrane is a key battleground in the war between plants and their pathogens. Plants detect the presence of pathogens at the plasma membrane using sensor proteins, many of which are targeted to this lipophilic locale by way of fatty acid modifications. Pathogens secrete effector proteins into the plant cell to suppress the plant's defense mechanisms. These effectors are able to access and interfere with the surveillance machinery at the plant plasma membrane by hijacking the host's fatty acylation apparatus. Despite the important involvement of protein fatty acylation in both plant immunity and pathogen virulence mechanisms, relatively little is known about the role of this modification during plant-pathogen interactions. This dearth in our understanding is due largely to the lack of methods to monitor protein fatty acid modifications in the plant cell. Results: We describe a rapid method to detect two major forms of fatty acylation, N-myristoylation and S-acylation, of candidate proteins using alkyne fatty acid analogs coupled with click chemistry. We applied our approach to confirm and decisively demonstrate that the archetypal pattern recognition receptor FLS2, the well-characterized pathogen effector AvrPto, and one of the best-studied intracellular resistance proteins, Pto, all undergo plant-mediated fatty acylation. In addition to providing a means to readily determine fatty acylation, particularly myristoylation, of candidate proteins, this method is amenable to a variety of expression systems. We demonstrate this using both Arabidopsis protoplasts and stable transgenic Arabidopsis plants and we leverage Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves as a means for high-throughput evaluation of candidate proteins. Conclusions: Protein fatty acylation is a targeting tactic employed by both plants and their pathogens. The metabolic labeling approach leveraging alkyne fatty acid analogs and click chemistry described here has the potential to provide mechanistic details of the molecular tactics used at the host plasma membrane in the battle between plants and pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38
JournalPlant Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 3 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Click chemistry
  • Fatty acylation
  • Myristoylation
  • Nicotiana benthamiana
  • Palmitoylation
  • Pathogen effectors
  • Pattern recognition receptors
  • Plasma membrane
  • Resistance proteins
  • S-acylation
  • Stearylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science

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