Structural basis for Ca2+-dependent activation of a plant metacaspase

Ping Zhu, Xiao Hong Yu, Cheng Wang, Qingfang Zhang, Wu Liu, Sean McSweeney, John Shanklin, Eric Lam, Qun Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Plant metacaspases mediate programmed cell death in development, biotic and abiotic stresses, damage-induced immune response, and resistance to pathogen attack. Most metacaspases require Ca2+ for their activation and substrate processing. However, the Ca2+-dependent activation mechanism remains elusive. Here we report the crystal structures of Metacaspase 4 from Arabidopsis thaliana (AtMC4) that modulates Ca2+-dependent, damage-induced plant immune defense. The AtMC4 structure exhibits an inhibitory conformation in which a large linker domain blocks activation and substrate access. In addition, the side chain of Lys225 in the linker domain blocks the active site by sitting directly between two catalytic residues. We show that the activation of AtMC4 and cleavage of its physiological substrate involve multiple cleavages in the linker domain upon activation by Ca2+. Our analysis provides insight into the Ca2+-dependent activation of AtMC4 and lays the basis for tuning its activity in response to stresses for engineering of more sustainable crops for food and biofuels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2249
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Structural basis for Ca2+-dependent activation of a plant metacaspase'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this