Much of plant development depends on cell-to-cell redistribution of the plant hormone auxin, which is facilitated by the plasma membrane (PM) localized PIN FORMED (PIN) proteins. Auxin export activity, developmental roles, subcellular trafficking, and polarity of PINs have been well studied, but their structure remains elusive besides a rough outline that they contain two groups of 5 alpha-helices connected by a large hydrophilic loop (HL). Here, we focus on the PIN1 HL as we could produce it in sufficient quantities for biochemical investigations to provide insights into its secondary structure. Circular dichroism (CD) studies revealed its nature as an intrinsically disordered protein (IDP), manifested by the increase of structure content upon thermal melting. Consistent with IDPs serving as interaction platforms, PIN1 loops homodimerize. PIN1 HL cytoplasmic overexpression in Arabidopsis disrupts early endocytic trafficking of PIN1 and PIN2 and causes defects in the cotyledon vasculature formation. In summary, we demonstrate that PIN1 HL has an intrinsically disordered nature, which must be considered to gain further structural insights. Some secondary structures may form transiently during pairing with known and yet-to-be-discovered interactors.
Keywords: PIN1; dimerization; hydrophilic hoop; intrinsic disorder; subcellular trafficking.