Resolving binding pathways and solvation thermodynamics of plant hormone receptors

Chuankai Zhao, Diego E. Kleiman, Diwakar Shukla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plant hormones are small molecules that regulate plant growth, development, and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. They are specifically recognized by the binding site of their receptors. In this work, we resolved the binding pathways for eight classes of phytohormones (auxin, jasmonate, gibberellin, strigolactone, brassinosteroid, cytokinin, salicylic acid, and abscisic acid) to their canonical receptors using extensive molecular dynamics simulations. Furthermore, we investigated the role of water displacement and reorganization at the binding site of the plant receptors through inhomogeneous solvation theory. Our findings predict that displacement of water molecules by phytohormones contributes to free energy of binding via entropy gain and is associated with significant free energy barriers for most systems analyzed. Also, our results indicate that displacement of unfavorable water molecules in the binding site can be exploited in rational agrochemical design. Overall, this study uncovers the mechanism of ligand binding and the role of water molecules in plant hormone perception, which creates new avenues for agrochemical design to target plant growth and development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105456
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Markov state model
  • hydration site analysis
  • inhomogenous solvation theory
  • molecular dynamics
  • plant hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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