The plant cell wall plays a critical role in signaling responses to environmental and developmental cues, acting as both the sensing interface and regulator of plant cell integrity. Wall-associated kinases (WAKs) are plant receptor-like kinases located at the wall—plasma membrane—cytoplasmic interface and implicated in cell wall integrity sensing. WAKs in Arabidopsis thaliana
have been shown to bind pectins in different forms under various conditions, such as oligogalacturonides (OG)s in stress response, and native pectin during cell expansion. The mechanism(s) WAKs use for sensing in grasses, which contain relatively low amounts of pectin, remains unclear. WAK
genes from the model monocot plant, Brachypodium distachyon
were identified. Expression profiling during early seedling development and in response to sodium salicylate and salt treatment was undertaken to identify WAKs involved in cell expansion and response to external stimuli. The BdWAK2
gene displayed increased expression during cell expansion and stress response, in addition to playing a potential role in the hypersensitive response. In vitro binding assays with various forms of commercial polysaccharides (pectins, xylans, and mixed-linkage glucans) and wall-extracted fractions (pectic/hemicellulosic/cellulosic) from both Arabidopsis
leaf tissues provided new insights into the binding properties of BdWAK2 and other candidate BdWAKs in grasses. The BdWAKs displayed a specificity for the acidic pectins with similar binding characteristics to the AtWAKs.
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