The Arabidopsis CERK1-associated kinase PBL27 connects chitin perception to MAPK activation

EMBO J. 2016 Nov 15;35(22):2468-2483. doi: 10.15252/embj.201694248. Epub 2016 Sep 27.


Perception of microbe-associated molecular patterns by host cell surface pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) triggers the intracellular activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades. However, it is not known how PRRs transmit immune signals to MAPK cascades in plants. Here, we identify a complete phospho-signaling transduction pathway from PRR-mediated pathogen recognition to MAPK activation in plants. We found that the receptor-like cytoplasmic kinase PBL27 connects the chitin receptor complex CERK1-LYK5 and a MAPK cascade. PBL27 interacts with both CERK1 and the MAPK kinase kinase MAPKKK5 at the plasma membrane. Knockout mutants of MAPKKK5 compromise chitin-induced MAPK activation and disease resistance to Alternaria brassicicola PBL27 phosphorylates MAPKKK5 in vitro, which is enhanced by phosphorylation of PBL27 by CERK1. The chitin perception induces disassociation between PBL27 and MAPKKK5 in vivo Furthermore, genetic evidence suggests that phosphorylation of MAPKKK5 by PBL27 is essential for chitin-induced MAPK activation in plants. These data indicate that PBL27 is the MAPKKK kinase that provides the missing link between the cell surface chitin receptor and the intracellular MAPK cascade in plants.

Keywords: PAMP; RLCK; MAPKKK5; plant immunity; signal transduction.

MeSH terms

  • Alternaria / immunology
  • Alternaria / pathogenicity
  • Arabidopsis / enzymology
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / immunology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Chitin / metabolism*
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinase 5 / metabolism*
  • Plant Diseases / immunology
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Chitin
  • LYK5 protein, Arabidopsis
  • PBL27 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Protein Kinases
  • CERK1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinase 5