Structure–activity studies ofAtPep1, a plant peptide signal involved in the innate immune response

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AtPep1, a 23-amino acid peptide recently isolated from Arabidopsis leaves, induces the expression of the genes encoding defense proteins against pathogens. We investigated the structure–activity relationship of AtPep1 with its receptor, a 170 kDa leucine-rich repeat receptor kinase (AtPEPR1) by utilizing a suspension cell assay (the alkalinization assay). Binding of AtPep1 to AtPEPR1 on the cell surface is accompanied by an increase in the pH of Arabidopsis suspension cell media by 1 pH unit in 15 min with a half-maximal response of 0.25 nM. Sequential removal of N-terminal amino acids had little effect on activity until the peptide was reduced to 15 amino acids [AtPep1(9–23)], which decreased the activity by less than one order of magnitude. Activity was completely abolished when nine C-terminal amino acids remained. Removal of the C-terminal asparagine from AtPep1(9–23), resulted in a decrease in activity (Symbol max ∼ 100 nM). AtPep1(9–23) was used for alanine-substitution analysis and revealed two important residues for activity, a serine, [A15]AtPep1(9–23) (Symbol max ∼ 10 nM), and a glycine, [A17]AtPep1(9–23) (Symbol max ∼ 1000 nM). Neither [A17]AtPep1(9–23) nor the C-terminal truncated AtPep1, AtPep1(9–22), were able to compete with AtPep1(9–23) in the alkalinization assay. The importance of the glycine residue for binding to the AtPep receptor was also confirmed by competition assays using radiolabeled AtPep1. d-Alanine or 2-methylalanine substituted at the glycine position displayed only a slight decrease in activity whereas l- and d-proline substitution caused a loss of activity. Homologs of AtPep1 identified in Arabidopsis and other species revealed a strict conservation of the glycine residue.

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