Cell–cell communication during development and reproduction in plants depends largely on a few phytohormones and many diverse classes of polymorphic secreted peptides. The peptide ligands are bound at the cell surface of target cells by their membranous interaction partners representing, in most cases, either receptor-like kinases or ion channels. Although knowledge of both the extracellular ligand and its corresponding receptor(s) is necessary to describe the downstream signalling pathway(s), to date only a few ligand–receptor pairs have been identified. Several methods, such as affinity purification and yeast two-hybrid screens, have been used very successfully to elucidate interactions between soluble proteins, but most of these methods cannot be applied to membranous proteins. Experimental obstacles such as low concentration and poor solubility of membrane receptors, as well as instable transient interactions, often hamper the use of these ‘classical’ approaches. However, over the last few years, a lot of progress has been made to overcome these problems by combining classical techniques with new methodologies. In the present article, we review the most promising recent methods in identifying cell-surface receptor interactions, with an emphasis on success stories outside the field of plant research.

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