Mutation of a conserved motif of PP2C.D phosphatases confers SAUR immunity and constitutive activity

Jeh Haur Wong, Angela K Spartz, Meeyeon Park, Minmin Du, William M Gray

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35 Scopus citations


The phytohormone auxin promotes the growth of plant shoots by stimulating cell expansion via plasma membrane (PM) H+- ATPase activation, which facilitates cell wall loosening and solute uptake. Mechanistic insight was recently obtained by demonstrating that auxin-induced SMALL AUXIN UP RNA (SAUR) proteins inhibit D-CLADE TYPE 2C PROTEIN PHOSPHATASE (PP2C.D) activity, thereby trapping PM H1-ATPases in the phosphorylated, activated state, but how SAURs bind PP2C.D proteins and inhibit their activity is unknown. Here, we identified a highly conserved motif near the C-terminal region of the PP2C.D catalytic domain that is required for SAUR binding in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Missense mutations in this motif abolished SAUR binding but had no apparent effect on catalytic activity. Consequently, mutant PP2C.D proteins that could not bind SAURs exhibited constitutive activity, as they were immune to SAUR inhibition. In planta expression of SAUR-immune pp2c.d2 or pp2c.d5 derivatives conferred severe cell expansion defects and corresponding constitutively low levels of PM H+-ATPase phosphorylation. These growth defects were not alleviated by either auxin treatment or 35S:StrepII-SAUR19 coexpression. In contrast, a PM H1-ATPase gain-of-function mutation that results in a constitutively active H+ pump partially suppressed SAUR-immune pp2c.d5 phenotypes, demonstrating that impaired PM H+- ATPase function is largely responsible for the reduced growth of the SAUR-immune pp2c.d5 mutant. Together, these findings provide crucial genetic support for SAUR-PP2C.D regulation of cell expansion via modulation of PM H1-ATPase activity. Furthermore, SAUR-immune pp2c.d derivatives provide new genetic tools for elucidating SAUR and PP2C.D functions and manipulating plant organ growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
1This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (MCB-1613809 to W.M.G.) and the National Institutes of Health (GM067203 to W.M.G.). 2These authors contributed equally to the article. 3Author for contact: 4Senior author. The author responsible for distribution of materials integral to the findings presented in this article in accordance with the policy described in the Instructions for Authors ( is: William M. Gray ( W.M.G., J.H.W., and A.K.S. designed the research; J.H.W., A.K.S., M.Y.P., and M.D. performed the experiments; W.M.G. supervised the experiments; J.H.W. and W.M.G. wrote the article with contributions from all authors. [OPEN]Articles can be viewed without a subscription.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 American Society of Plant Biologists. All rights reserved.

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  • Journal Article


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