Organisms use environmental signals to determine how best to grow and develop. Receptors on the cell surface detect many diverse signals to monitor the biotic and abiotic environment surrounding the plant cell. Kinases are a major class of receptor proteins with hundreds of receptor-like kinases in plants. They are vitally important for agriculture and plant breeders because they recognise hormones, microbes, carbohydrates and other signals that are associated with plant development and defence.
One sub-class of receptor-like kinases are defined by the presence of an extracellular malectin domain. Malectin domains are found in all kingdoms, while a tandem configuration of the malectin domain, the malectin-like domain, is specific to plants and algae (see figure). The family size of both malectin domain-receptor-like kinases and malectin-like domain-receptor-like kinases is greatly expanded in higher plants. Given the widespread occurrence of malectin domain receptor-like kinases, it is important to understand how they function in plant development and environmental responses.
Although the malectin domain is found mostly in conjunction with a kinase domain (where it would be extracellular), this domain can also be found linked to a kinesin domain, that is a motor protein that moves around the cytoskeleton.
If we can identify how these two types of act in plant development, then this knowledge can potentially be used to increase crop yields or to develop herbicides with plant-specific targets.
Projects in the lab currently focus on:
- Functions of malectin domain receptor-like kinases in development
- Roles of malectin domain kinesins in cell division and embryogenesis
- Mechanism of action of the sprouting inhibitor CIPC
Link to our review on malectin domain receptor-like kinases.