Intriguing Role of Water in Plant Hormone Perception

Chuankai Zhao, Diego E. Kleiman and Diwakar Shukla
bioRxiv, 2021

Plant hormones are small molecules that regulate plant growth, development, and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. Plant hormones are specifically recognized by the binding site of their receptors. In this work, we investigated the role of water displacement and reorganization at the binding site of plant receptors on the binding of eight classes of phytohormones (auxin, jasmonate, gibberellin, strigolactone, brassinosteroid, cytokinin, salicylic acid, and abscisic acid) using extensive molecular dynamics simulations and inhomogeneous solvation theory. Our findings demonstrated that displacement of water molecules by phytohormones contributes to free energy of binding via entropy gain and is associated with free energy barriers. Also, our results have shown that displacement of unfavorable water molecules in the binding site can be exploited in rational agrochemical design. Overall, this study uncovers the role of water molecules in plant hormone perception, which creates new avenues for agrochemical design to target plant growth and development.

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