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Feb 2021 International journal of molecular sciences

Structural and Functional Characterization of the ABA-Water Deficit Stress Domain from Wheat and Barley: An Intrinsically Disordered Domain behind the Versatile Functions of the Plant Abscissic Acid, Stress and Ripening Protein Family.


Yacoubi I, Hamdi K, Fourquet P, Bignon C, Longhi S


The ASR protein family has been discovered thirty years ago in many plant species and is involved in the tolerance of various abiotic stresses such as dehydration, salinity and heat. Despite its importance, nothing is known about the conserved ABA-Water Deficit Stress Domain (ABA-WDS) of the ASR gene family. In this study, we characterized two ABA-WDS domains, isolated from durum wheat (TtABA-WDS) and barley (HvABA-WDS). Bioinformatics analysis shows that they are both consistently predicted to be intrinsically disordered. Hydrodynamic and circular dichroism analysis indicate that both domains are largely disordered but belong to different structural classes, with HvABA-WDS and TtABA-WDS adopting a PreMolten Globule-like (PMG-like) and a Random Coil-like (RC-like) conformation, respectively. In the presence of the secondary structure stabilizer trifluoroethanol (TFE) or of increasing glycerol concentrations, which mimics dehydration, the two domains acquire an α-helical structure. Interestingly, both domains are able to prevent heat- and dehydration-induced inactivation of the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Furthermore, heterologous expression of TtABA-WDS and HvABA-WDS in the yeast improves its tolerance to salt, heat and cold stresses. Taken together our results converge to show that the ABA-WDS domain is an intrinsically disordered functional domain whose conformational plasticity could be instrumental to support the versatile functions attributed to the ASR family, including its role in abiotic stress tolerance. Finally, and after validation in the plant system, this domain could be used to improve crop tolerance to abiotic stresses.

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