Leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases (LRR-RKs) are the largest sub-family of transmembrane receptor kinases in plants. In several LRR-RKs, a loop-out region called an 'island domain', which intercepts the extracellular tandem LRRs at a position near the transmembrane domain, constitutes the ligand-binding pocket, but the absence of the island domain in numerous LRR-RKs raises questions about which domain recognizes the ligand in non-island domain LRR-RKs. Here, we used photoaffinity labeling followed by chemical and enzymatic digestion to show that BAM1, a CLV1/BAM-family LRR-RK whose extracellular domain comprises 22 consecutive LRRs, directly interacts with the small peptide ligand CLE9 at the LRR6-LRR8 region that is relatively distal from the transmembrane domain. Multiple sequence alignment and homology modeling revealed that the inner concave side of LRR6-LRR8 of CLV1/BAM-family LRR-RKs deviates slightly from the LRR consensus. In support of our findings, the clv1-4 mutant carries a missense mutation at the inner concave side of LRR6 of CLV1, and introduction of the corresponding mutation in BAM1 resulted in complete loss of ligand binding activity. Our results indicate that the ligand recognition mechanisms of plant LRR-RKs are more complex and diverse than anticipated.
© 2012 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.