Letter | Published:

The abscisic acid receptor PYR1 in complex with abscisic acid

Nature volume 462, pages 665668 (03 December 2009) | Download Citation


The plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) has a central role in coordinating the adaptive response in situations of decreased water availability as well as the regulation of plant growth and development. Recently, a 14-member family of intracellular ABA receptors, named PYR/PYL/RCAR1,2,3, has been identified. These proteins inhibit in an ABA-dependent manner the activity of a family of key negative regulators of the ABA signalling pathway: the group-A protein phosphatases type 2C (PP2Cs)4,5,6. Here we present the crystal structure of Arabidopsis thaliana PYR1, which consists of a dimer in which one of the subunits is bound to ABA. In the ligand-bound subunit, the loops surrounding the entry to the binding cavity fold over the ABA molecule, enclosing it inside, whereas in the empty subunit they form a channel leaving an open access to the cavity, indicating that conformational changes in these loops have a critical role in the stabilization of the hormone–receptor complex. By providing structural details on the ABA-binding pocket, this work paves the way for the development of new small molecules able to activate the plant stress response.

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Protein Data Bank

Data deposits

Atomic coordinates and structure factors for the reported crystal structure have been deposited in the Protein Data Bank under accession code 3K90.


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We thank A. McArthy and S. Brockhauser for support during X-ray data collection and R. Serrano and S. Cusack for critical reading of the manuscript. We are grateful to the European Synchrotron radiation facility (ESRF) and the EMBL for access to the macromolecular crystallography and BioSAXS beamlines. This work was supported by grant BIO2008-00221 from Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia and Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional and Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (fellowships to J.S. and R.A.). Access to the high throughput crystallization facility of the Partnership for Structural Biology in Grenoble (PSB) (https://htxlab.embl.fr) was supported by the European Community–Research Infrastructure Action PCUBE under the FP7 ‘Capacities’ specific programme.

Author Contributions J.S. contributed with the cloning, protein purification, ITC, MALLS and helped with crystallization and SAXS experiments. F.D. performed protein purification, crystallization and crystal refinement experiments and helped with X-ray data collection. A.R. supervised SAXS data collection and performed data analysis. M.J. carried out MALLS experiments and analysis. R.A. carried out cloning and protein purification. S.-Y.P. and S.R.C. carried out cloning of mutant PYR1 proteins and contributed to discussions. P.L.R. contributed to discussions and writing of the manuscript. J.A.M. supervised the work and performed data collection, structure solution and refinement as well as writing of the manuscript.

Author information

Author notes

    • Julia Santiago
    •  & Florine Dupeux

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas-Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, ES-46022 Valencia, Spain

    • Julia Santiago
    • , Regina Antoni
    •  & Pedro Luis Rodriguez
  2. European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Grenoble Outstation and Unit of Virus Host-Cell Interactions, UJF-EMBL-CNRS, 6 rue Jules Horowitz, BP181, 38042 Grenoble Cedex 9, France

    • Florine Dupeux
    • , Adam Round
    •  & José Antonio Márquez
  3. Department of Botany and Plant Sciences. Center for Plant Cell Biology. University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA

    • Sang-Youl Park
    •  & Sean R. Cutler
  4. Virus Host Cell Interactions (UVHCI) UMI 3265, Université Joseph Fourier-EMBL-CNRS, 6 rue Jules Horowitz, 38042 Grenoble Cedex 9, France

    • Marc Jamin


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Competing interests

A patent application is in progress.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to José Antonio Márquez.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Tables 1-2, Supplementary Notes and Data, Supplementary References and Supplementary Figures S1-S3 with Legends.

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