The serine/threonine protein kinase 3-phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1 (PDK1) is a highly conserved eukaryotic kinase that is a central regulator of many AGC kinase subfamily members. Through its regulation of AGC kinases, PDK1 controls many basic cellular processes, from translation to cell survival. While many of these PDK1-regulated processes are conserved across kingdoms, it is not well understood how PDK1 may have evolved within kingdoms. In order to better understand PDK1 evolution within plants, we have isolated and characterized the PDK1 gene from the moss Physcomitrella patens (PpPDK1), a nonvascular representative of early land plants. PpPDK1 is similar to other plant PDK1s in that it can functionally complement a yeast PDK1 knockout line. However, unlike PDK1 from other plants, the P. patens PDK1 protein does not bind phospholipids due to a lack of the lipid-binding pleckstrin homology domain, which is used for lipid-mediated regulation of PDK1 activity. Sequence analysis of several PDK1 proteins suggests that lipid regulation of PDK1 may not commonly occur in algae and nonvascular land plants. PpPDK1 can phosphorylate AGC kinase substrates from tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and P. patens at the predicted PDK1 phosphorylation site, indicating that the PpPDK1 substrate phosphorylation site is conserved with higher plants. We have also identified residues within the PpPDK1 kinase domain that affect kinase activity and show that a mutant with highly reduced kinase activity can still confer cell viability in both yeast and P. patens. These studies lay the foundation for further analysis of the evolution of PDK1 within plants.
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