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The Mechanosensitive channel of Small conductance (MscS) of Escherichia coli has become an excellent model system for the structural, biophysical, and functional study of mechanosensitive ion channels. MscS, a complex channel with multiple states, contributes to protection against lysis upon osmotic downshock. MscS homologs are widely and abundantly dispersed among the bacterial and plant lineages, but are not found in animals. Investigation into the eukaryotic branch of the MscS family is in the beginning stages, and it remains unclear how much MscS homologs from eukaryotes resemble E. coli MscS with respect to structure, function, and regulation. Here we test the effect of mutating three conserved motifs on the function of MscS-Like (MSL)2, a MscS homolog localized to the plastids of Arabidopsis thaliana. We show that 1) a motif at the top of the cytoplasmic domain, referred to here as the PN(X)9N motif, is essential for MSL2 function and for its proper intraplastidic localization; 2) substituting polar residues for two large hydrophobic residues located in the predicted pore-lining transmembrane helix of MSL2 produces a likely gain-of-function allele, as previously shown for MscS; and 3) mis-expression of this allele causes severe defects in leaf growth, loss of chloroplast integrity, and abnormal starch accumulation. Thus, two of the three conserved motifs we analyzed are critical for MSL2 function, consistent with the conservation of structure and function between MscS family members in bacteria and plants. These results underscore the importance of plastidic mechanosensitive channels in the maintenance of normal plastid and leaf morphology.


© 2012 Jensen, Haswell. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. DOI:

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