15 October 2013
Recent studies have identified a novel interkingdom signaling circuit, via plant signaling molecules, and a bacterial sub-family of LuxR proteins, bridging eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Indeed pivotal plant-bacteria interactions are regulated by the so called Plant Associated Bacteria (PAB) LuxR solo regulators that, although closely related to the quorum sensing (QS) LuxR family, do not bind or respond to canonical quorum sensing N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs), but only to specific host plant signal molecules. The large body of structural data available for several members of the QS LuxR family complexed with different classes of ligands (AHLs and other compounds), has been exploited to dissect the cartography of their regulatory domains through structure-based multiple sequence alignments, structural superimposition and a comparative analysis of the contact residues involved in ligand binding. In the absence of experimentally determined structures of members of the PAB LuxR solos subfamily, an homology model of its prototype OryR is presented, aiming to elucidate the architecture of its ligand-binding site. The obtained model, in combination with the cartography of the regulatory domains of the homologous QS LuxRs, provides novel insights into the 3D structure of its ligand-binding site and unveils the probable molecular determinants responsible for differences in selectivity towards specific host plant signal molecules, rather than to canonical QS compounds.