Multistep phosphorelay (MSP) pathways mediate a wide spectrum of adaptive responses in plants, including hormonal and abiotic stress regulations. Recent genetic evidence suggests both partial redundancy and possible functional cross-talk on the one hand and a certain level of specificity on the other. Here, we discuss recent achievements improving our understanding of possible molecular mechanisms of specificity in MSP. We consider a certain evolutionary conservation of ancestral two-component signalling systems from bacteria in a process of molecular recognition that, as we have recently shown, could be applied also to a certain extent in the case of plant MSP. Furthermore, we discuss possible roles of kinase and phosphatase activities, kinetics of both these enzymatic reactions, and phosphorylation lifetime. We include also recent findings on the expression specificity of individual members of MSP pathways and, finally, based on our recent findings, we speculate about a possible role of magnesium in regulation of MSP pathways in plants. All these mechanisms could significantly influence specificity and signalling output of the MSP pathways.
Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana, cytokinin, phosphorelay, plant hormone, signal integration, signal specificity, signalling pathway, two-component system, cell signalling, Multistep phosphorelay pathway, abiotic stress, chloroplast, bimolecular fluorescence complementation, Dephosphorylation