Investigations into a putative role for the novel BRASSIKIN pseudokinases in compatible pollen-stigma interactions in Arabidopsis thaliana

Doucet J, Lee HK, Udugama N, Xu J, Qi B, Goring DR

BMC Plant Biol. 2019 Dec 11;19(1):549. doi: 10.1186/s12870-019-2160-9.




In the Brassicaceae, the early stages of compatible pollen-stigma interactions are tightly controlled with early checkpoints regulating pollen adhesion, hydration and germination, and pollen tube entry into the stigmatic surface. However, the early signalling events in the stigma which trigger these compatible interactions remain unknown.


A set of stigma-expressed pseudokinase genes, termed BRASSIKINs (BKNs), were identified and found to be present in only core Brassicaceae genomes. In Arabidopsis thaliana Col-0, BKN1 displayed stigma-specific expression while the BKN2 gene was expressed in other tissues as well. CRISPR deletion mutations were generated for the two tandemly linked BKNs, and very mild hydration defects were observed for wild-type Col-0 pollen when placed on the bkn1/2 mutant stigmas. In further analyses, the predominant transcript for the stigma-specific BKN1 was found to have a premature stop codon in the Col-0 ecotype, but a survey of the 1001 Arabidopsis genomes uncovered three ecotypes that encoded a full-length BKN1 protein. Furthermore, phylogenetic analyses identified intact BKN1 orthologues in the closely related outcrossing Arabidopsis species, A. lyrata and A. halleri. Finally, the BKN pseudokinases were found to be plasma-membrane localized through the dual lipid modification of myristoylation and palmitoylation, and this localization would be consistent with a role in signaling complexes.


In this study, we have characterized the novel Brassicaceae-specific family of BKN pseudokinase genes, and examined the function of BKN1 and BKN2 in the context of pollen-stigma interactions in A. thaliana Col-0. Additionally, premature stop codons were identified in the predicted stigma specific BKN1 gene in a number of the 1001 A. thaliana ecotype genomes, and this was in contrast to the out-crossing Arabidopsis species which carried intact copies of BKN1. Thus, understanding the function of BKN1 in other Brassicaceae species will be a key direction for future studies.