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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The computational-based structure of Dwarf14 provides evidence for its role as potential strigolactone receptor in plants

Noura Gaiji1, Francesca Cardinale2, Cristina Prandi3, Paola Bonfante4 and Graziella Ranghino1*

Author Affiliations

1 Geol sas, Vercelli, Italy

2 Dipartimento di Colture Arboree, Università di Torino, Torino, Italy

3 Dipartimento di Chimica, Università di Torino, Torino, Italy

4 Dipartimento DiBios, Università di Torino, Torino, Italy

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:307  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-307

Published: 19 June 2012



Strigolactones (SLs) are recently identified plant hormones modulating root and shoot branching. Besides their endogenous role within the producing organism, SLs are also key molecules in the communication of plants with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and parasitic weeds. In fact SLs are exuded into the rhizosphere where they act as a host-derived signal, stimulating the germination of the seeds of parasitic plants which would not survive in the absence of a host root to colonize. Similarly, their perception by AM fungi causes extensive hyphal branching; this is a prerequisite for effective root colonization, since it increases the number of potential contact points with the host surface. In spite of the crucial and multifaceted biological role of SLs, there is no information on the receptor(s) which bind(s) such active molecules, neither in the producing plants, or in parasitic weeds or AM fungi.


In this work, we applied homology modelling techniques to investigate the structure of the protein encoded by the gene Dwarf14, which was first identified in rice as conferring SLs insensitivity when mutated. The best sequence identity was with bacterial RsbQ. Both proteins belong to the superfamily of alpha/beta-fold hydrolases, some members of which play a role in the metabolism or signalling of plant hormones. The Dwarf14 (D14) structure was refined by means of molecular dynamics simulations. In order to support the hypothesis that D14 could be an endogenous SLs receptor, we performed docking experiments with a natural ligand.


It is suggested that D14 interacts with and thereby may act as a receptor for SLs in plants. This hypothesis offers a starting point to experimentally study the mechanism of its activity in vivo by means of structural, molecular and genetic approaches. Lastly, knowledge of the putative receptor structure will boost the research on analogues of the natural substrates as required for agricultural applications.