Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 75, Issue 4, pp 413-430

First online:

Plant aquaporins with non-aqua functions: deciphering the signature sequences

  • Runyararo Memory HoveAffiliated withEnvironment and Biotechnology Centre, Faculty of Life and Social Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology
  • , Mrinal BhaveAffiliated withEnvironment and Biotechnology Centre, Faculty of Life and Social Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology Email author 

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Research in recent years on plant Major Intrinsic Proteins (MIPs), commonly referred to as ‘aquaporins’, has seen a vast expansion in the substrates found to be transported via these membrane channels. The diversity in sizes, chemical nature and physiological significance of these substrates has meant a need to critically analyse the possible structural and biochemical properties of MIPs that transport these, in order to understand their roles. In this work we have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of all plant MIPs, coming from different families, that have been proven to transport ammonia, boron, carbon dioxide, hydrogen peroxide, silicon and urea. The sequences were analysed for all primary selectivity-related motifs (NPA motifs, ar/R filter, P1–P5 residues). In addition, the putative regulatory phosphorylation and glycosylation sites and mechanistic regulators such as loop lengths have been analysed. Further, nine specificity-determining positions (SDPs) were predicted for each group. The results show the ar/R filter residues, P2–P4 positions and some of the SDPs are characteristic for certain groups, and O-glycosylation sites are unique to a subgroup while N-glycosylation was characteristic of the other MIPs. Certain residues, especially in loop C, and structural parameters such as loop lengths also contribute to the uniqueness of groups. The comprehensive analysis makes significant inroads into appraising the intriguing diversity of plant MIPs and their roles in fundamental life processes, and provides tools for plant selections, protein engineering and transgenics.


Aquaporins Major intrinsic proteins Membrane channels Abiotic stress