Role of Substrate Recognition in Modulating Strigolactone Receptor Selectivity in Witchweed

Jiming Chen, Alexandra White, David C Nelson, Diwakar Shukla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Witchweed, or Striga hermonthica, is a parasitic weed that destroys billions of dollars' worth of crops globally every year. Its germination is stimulated by strigolactones exuded by its host plants. Despite high sequence, structure, and ligand binding site conservation across different plant species, one strigolactone receptor in witchweed, ShHTL7, uniquely exhibits a picomolar EC50 for downstream signaling. Previous biochemical and structural analyses have hypothesized that this unique ligand sensitivity can be attributed to a large binding pocket volume in ShHTL7 resulting in enhanced ability to bind substrates, but additional structural details of the substrate binding process would help explain its role in modulating the ligand selectivity. Using long-timescale molecular dynamics simulations, we demonstrate that mutations at the entrance of the binding pocket facilitate a more direct ligand binding pathway to ShHTL7, whereas hydrophobicity at the binding pocket entrance results in a stable "anchored" state. We also demonstrate that several residues on the D-loop of AtD14 stabilize catalytically inactive conformations. Finally, we show that strigolactone selectivity is not modulated by binding pocket volume. Our results indicate that while ligand binding is not the sole modulator of strigolactone receptor selectivity, it is a significant contributing factor. These results can be used to inform the design of selective antagonists for strigolactone receptors in witchweed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101092
Pages (from-to)101092
JournalThe Journal of biological chemistry
Issue number4
Early online dateAug 23 2021
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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