A KARRIKIN INSENSITIVE2 paralog in lettuce mediates highly sensitive germination responses to karrikinolide

Plant Physiol. 2022 Sep 28;190(2):1440-1456. doi: 10.1093/plphys/kiac328.


Karrikins (KARs) are chemicals in smoke that can enhance germination of many plants. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) cv. Grand Rapids germinates in response to nanomolar karrikinolide (KAR1). Lettuce is much less responsive to KAR2 or a mixture of synthetic strigolactone analogs, rac-GR24. We investigated the molecular basis of selective and sensitive KAR1 perception in lettuce. The lettuce genome contains two copies of KARRIKIN INSENSITIVE2 (KAI2), which in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) encodes a receptor that is required for KAR responses. LsKAI2b is more highly expressed than LsKAI2a in dry achenes and during early stages of imbibition. Through cross-species complementation assays in Arabidopsis, we found that an LsKAI2b transgene confers robust responses to KAR1, but LsKAI2a does not. Therefore, LsKAI2b likely mediates KAR1 responses in lettuce. We compared homology models of KAI2 proteins from lettuce and a fire-follower, whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora). This identified pocket residues 96, 124, 139, and 161 as candidates that influence the ligand specificity of KAI2. Further support for the importance of these residues was found through a broader comparison of pocket residues among 281 KAI2 proteins from 184 asterid species. Almost all KAI2 proteins had either Tyr or Phe identity at position 124. Genes encoding Y124-type KAI2 are more broadly distributed in asterids than in F124-type KAI2. Substitutions at residues 96, 124, 139, and 161 in Arabidopsis KAI2 produced a broad array of responses to KAR1, KAR2, and rac-GR24. This suggests that the diverse ligand preferences observed among KAI2 proteins in plants could have evolved through relatively few mutations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis Proteins* / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins* / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis* / genetics
  • Arabidopsis* / metabolism
  • Furans / metabolism
  • Furans / pharmacology
  • Germination / genetics
  • Hydrolases / genetics
  • Lactuca / genetics
  • Lactuca / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Pyrans
  • Smoke


  • 3-methyl-2H-furo(2,3-c)pyran-2-one
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Furans
  • Ligands
  • Pyrans
  • Smoke
  • karrikinolide
  • Hydrolases