A conformational switch in the SCF-D3/MAX2 ubiquitin ligase facilitates strigolactone signalling

Lior Tal, Malathy Palayam, Mily Ron, Aleczander Young, Anne Britt, Nitzan Shabek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Strigolactones (SLs) are a class of plant hormones that regulate numerous processes of growth and development. SL perception and signal activation involves interaction between F-box E3 ubiquitin ligase D3/MAX2 and DWARF14 (D14) α/β-hydrolase in a SL-dependent manner and targeting of D53/SMXL6/7/8 transcriptional repressors (SMXLs) for proteasome-mediated degradation. D3/MAX2 has been shown to exist in multiple conformational states in which the C-terminal helix (CTH) undergoes a closed-to-open dynamics and regulates D14 binding and SL perception. Despite the multiple modes of D3–D14 interactions found in vitro, the residues that regulate the conformational switch of D3/MAX2 CTH in targeting D53/SMXLs and the subsequent effect on SL signalling remain unclear. Here we elucidate the functional dynamics of ASK1–D3/MAX2 in SL signalling by leveraging conformational switch mutants in vitro and in plants. We report the crystal structure of a dislodged CTH of the ASK1–D3 mutant and demonstrate that disruptions in CTH plasticity via either CRISPR–Cas9 genome editing or expression of point mutation mutants result in impairment of SL signalling. We show that the conformational switch in ASK1–D3/MAX2 CTH directly regulates ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation. A dislodged conformation involved in D53/SMXLs SL-dependent recruitment and ubiquitination and an engaged conformation are required for the release of polyubiquitinated D53/SMXLs and subsequently D14 for proteasomal degradation. Finally, we uncovered an organic acid metabolite that can directly trigger the D3/MAX2 CTH conformational switch. Our findings unravel a new regulatory function of a SKP1–CUL1–F-box ubiquitin ligase in plant signalling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-573
Number of pages13
JournalNature Plants
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


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