Tospoviruses cause serious economic losses to a wide range of field and horticultural crops on a global scale. The NSs gene encoded by tospoviruses acts as a suppressor of host plant defense. We identified amino acid motifs that are conserved in all of the NSs proteins of tospoviruses for which the sequence is known. Using tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) as a model, the role of these motifs in suppressor activity of NSs was investigated. Using site-directed point mutations in two conserved motifs, glycine, lysine and valine/threonine (GKV/T) at positions 181-183 and tyrosine and leucine (YL) at positions 412-413, and an assay to measure the reversal of gene silencing in Nicotiana benthamiana line 16c, we show that substitutions (K182 to A, and L413 to A) in these motifs abolished suppressor activity of the NSs protein, indicating that these two motifs are essential for the RNAi suppressor function of tospoviruses.
Ourmia melon virus (OuMV) is the type member of the genus Ourmiavirus. These viruses have a trisegmented genome, each part of which encodes a single protein. Ourmiaviruses share a distant similarity with other plant viruses only in their movement proteins (MP), whereas their RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) shares features only with fungal viruses of the family Narnaviridae. Thus, ourmiaviruses are in a unique phylogenetic position among existing plant viruses. Here, we developed an agroinoculation system to launch infection in Nicotiana benthamiana plants. Using different combinations of the three segments, we demonstrated that RNA1 is necessary and sufficient for cis-acting replication in the agroinfiltrated area. RNA2 and RNA3, encoding the putative movement protein and the coat protein (CP), respectively, are both necessary for successful systemic infection of N. benthamiana. The CP is dispensable for long-distance transport of the virus through vascular tissues, but its absence prevents efficient systemic infection at the exit sites. Virion formation occurred only when the CP was translated from replication-derived RNA3. Transient expression of a green fluorescent protein-MP (GFP-MP) fusion via agroinfiltration showed that the MP is present in cytoplasmic connections across plant cell walls; in protoplasts the GFP-MP fusion stimulates the formation of tubular protrusions. Expression through agroinfiltration of a GFP-CP fusion displays most of the fluorescence inside the nucleus and within the nucleolus in particular. Nuclear localization of the CP was also confirmed through Western blot analysis of purified nuclei. The significance of several unusual properties of OuMV for replication, virion assembly, and movement is discussed in relation to other positive-strand RNA viruses.
The Lettuce infectious yellows virus (LIYV) RNA 2 mutant p1-5b was previously isolated from Bemisia tabaci-transmitted virus maintained in Chenopodium murale plants. p1-5b RNA 2 contains a single-nucleotide deletion in the minor coat protein (CPm) open reading frame (ORF) that is predicted to result in a frameshift and premature termination of the protein. Using the recently developed agroinoculation system for LIYV, we tested RNA 2 containing the p1-5b CPm mutant genotype (agro-pR6-5b) in Nicotiana benthamiana plants. We showed that plant infection triggered by agro-pR6-5b spread systemically and resulted in the formation of virions similar to those produced in p1-5b-inoculated protoplasts. However, virions derived from these mutant CPm genotypes were not transmitted by whiteflies, even though virion concentrations were above the typical transmission thresholds. In contrast, and as demonstrated for the first time, an engineered restoration mutant (agro-pR6-5bM1) was capable of both systemic movement in plants and whitefly transmission. These results provide strong molecular evidence that the full-length LIYV-encoded CPm is dispensable for systemic plant movement but is required for whitefly transmission.
ABSTRACT The role of Cpkk1, a mitogen-activated protein kinase from Cryphonectria parasitica, was investigated by generating a number of mutant strains that overexpress, under the control of the cryparin promoter, both the wild-type protein and its allele with an extensive deletion in the catalytic domain. Furthermore, a hairpin construct was built and expressed to cause specific silencing of Cpkk1 mRNA transcripts. Specific mRNA silencing or overexpression was confirmed on both Northern and Western blot analysis. Selected C. parasitica strains with Cpkk1 either silenced or overexpressed were evaluated for their biological characteristics, including virulence on European chestnut, growth on different substrates, conidial sporulation, and resistance to cell-wall-degrading enzymes. Silencing of Cpkk1 and the overexpression of a defective Cpkk1 correlated with a marked reduction in virulence on 3-year-old chestnut trees, with no statistically significant effect on fungal growth in the various conditions tested.
Lettuce infectious yellows virus (LIYV) is phloem-limited, non-mechanically transmissible, and is transmitted to plants only by Bemisia tabaci. Here, we developed agroinoculation to deliver LIYV to plants thereby obviating the need for B. tabaci. Agroinfiltration of RNA 1 containing a green fluorescent protein gene into Nicotiana benthamiana leaves resulted in subliminal infections, as judged by green fluorescence. Agroinfiltration of LIYV wild-type RNA 1 and 2 constructs resulted in systemic infections in N. benthamiana plants and typical LIYV symptoms. In addition, partially purified LIYV virions from agroinoculated N. benthamiana plants were successfully acquired via membrane-feeding and transmitted to lettuce plants by B. tabaci. Agroinoculation coupled with targeted mutagenesis technologies will greatly enhance LIYV reverse genetics studies to characterize LIYV gene functions in planta for processes such as virus replication, recombination, trafficking, symptom elicitation and virus-vector interactions.
Lettuce infectious yellows virus (LIYV), the type member of the genus Crinivirus in the family Closteroviridae, is specifically transmitted by the sweet potato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) in a semipersistent manner. LIYV infections result in a low virus titer in plants and protoplasts, impeding reverse genetic efforts to analyze LIYV gene/protein functions. We found that synergistic interactions occurred in mixed infections of LIYV and Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) in Nicotiana benthamiana plants, and these resulted in enhanced accumulation of LIYV. Furthermore, we examined the ability of transgenic plants and protoplasts expressing only the TuMV P1/HC-Pro sequence to enhance the accumulation of LIYV. LIYV RNA and protein titers increased by as much as 8-fold in these plants and protoplasts relative to control plants. LIYV infections remained phloem-limited in P1/HC-Pro transgenic plants, suggesting that enhanced accumulation of LIYV in these plants was due primarily to increased replication efficiency, not to greater spread.
Cryphonectria parasitica is the causal agent of chestnut blight. Infection of this ascomycete with Cryphonectria hypovirus 1 (CHV1) results in reduction of virulence and sporulation of the fungus. The virus affects fungal gene expression and several of the CHV1 downregulated genes encode secreted proteins that contain consensus Kex2 processing signals. Additionally, CHV1 has been shown to colocalize in infected cells primarily with fungal trans-Golgi network vesicles containing the Kex2 protease. We report here the cloning, analysis, and possible role of the C. parasitica Kex2 gene (CpKex2). CpKex2 gene sequence analysis showed high similarity to other ascomycete kexin-like proteins. Southern blot analyses of CpKex2 showed a single copy of this gene in the fungal genome. In order to monitor the expression and evaluate the function of CpKex2, antibodies were raised against expressed protein and Kex2-silenced mutants were generated. Western blots indicate that the Kex2 protein was constitutively expressed. Growth rate of the fungus was not significantly affected in Kex2-silenced strains; however, these strains showed reduced virulence, reduced sexual and asexual sporulation, and reductions in mating and fertility. The reduced virulence was correlated with reduced Kex2 enzymatic activity and reduced relative mRNA transcript levels as measured by real time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. These results suggest that secreted proteins processed by Kex2 are important in fungal development and virulence.
Tospoviruses are among the most serious threats to vegetable crops in the Mediterranean basin. Tospovirus introduction, spread, and the diseases these viruses cause have been traced by epidemiological case studies. Recent research has centered on the close relationship between tospoviruses and their arthropod vectors (species of the Thripidae family). Here, we review several specific features of tospovirus-thrips associations in the Mediterranean. Since the introduction of Frankliniella occidentalis in Europe, Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) has become one of the limiting factors for vegetable crops such as tomato, pepper, and lettuce. An increasing problem is the emergence of TSWV resistance-breaking strains that overcome the resistance genes in pepper and tomato. F. occidentalis is also a vector of Impatiens necrotic spot virus, which was first observed in the Mediterranean basin in the 1980s. Its importance as a cause of vegetable crop diseases is limited to occasional incidence in pepper and tomato fields. A recent introduction is Iris yellow spot virus, transmitted by the onion thrips Thrips tabaci, in onion and leek crops. Control measures in vegetable crops specific to Mediterranean conditions were examined in the context of their epidemiological features and tospovirus species which could pose a future potential risk for vegetable crops in the Mediterranean were discussed.
Infection of the chestnut blight fungus Cryphonectria parasitica with Cryphonectria hypovirus 1 (CHV1) causes disruption of virulence, pigmentation, and sporulation. Transcriptional downregulation of key developmentally regulated fungal genes occurs during infection, but vegetative growth is unaffected. Previous studies showed that CHV1 utilizes trans-Golgi network (TGN) secretory vesicles for replication. In this study, the fungal cell surface hydrophobin cryparin was chosen as a marker to follow secretion in virally infected and noninfected strains. Subcellular fractionation, cryparin-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion, and Western blot studies confirmed that vesicles containing cryparin copurify with the same fractions previously shown to contain elements of the viral replication complex and the TGN resident endoprotease Kex2. This vesicle fraction accumulated to a much greater concentration in the CHV1-infected strains than in noninfected strains. Pulse-chase analysis showed that the rates and amount of cryparin being secreted by the CHV1 containing strains was much lower than in noninfected strains, and the dwell time of cryparin within the cell after labeling was significantly greater in the CHV1-infected strains than in the noninfected ones. These results suggest that the virus perturbs a specific late TGN secretory pathway resulting in buildup of a key protein important for fungal development.
Kex2-silenced strains of Cryphonectria parasitica, the ascomycete causal agent of chestnut blight, show a significant reduction in virulence, reduced sexual and asexual sporulation and reductions in mating and fertility. Due to this and the known involvement of Kex2 in the processing of important proproteins in other systems, we searched the whole C. parasitica genome for putative Kex2 substrates. Out of 1299 open reading frames (ORFs) predicted to be secreted, 222 ORFs were identified as potential Kex2 substrates by this screen. Within the putative substrates we identified cell wall modifying proteins, putative proteinases, lipases, esterases, and oxidoreductases. This in silico screen also uncovered a family of nine secreted aspartic proteinases (SAPs) of C. parasitica. Northern blot analyses of this gene family showed differential expression when exposed to chestnut wood and Cryphonectria hypovirus 1 (CHV1). Due to the reduction in fungal virulence known to be caused upon hypoviral infection of C. parasitica, the differential gene expression observed, and the known involvement of SAPs in virulence in other systems, we conducted deletion analyses of four of these proteinases, representing different expression patterns. Deletion of each of the four SAPs did not affect growth rates, sporulation or virulence, suggesting that none of the considered SAPs is essential for the full development or virulence of C. parasitica under the conditions tested.
The biological function(s) of the cpkk1, cpkk2 and cpkk3 genes, encoding the three mitogen activated protein kinase kinases (MAP2Ks) of Cryphonectria parasitica, the causal agent of chestnut blight, were examined through knock-out strains. Cpkk1, the Mkk1-orthologue, acts in a phosphorylation cascade essential for cell integrity; Cpkk2 is the Ste7-orthologue involved in the pheromone response pathway; Cpkk3 is the Pbs2-orthologue, the MAP2K activated during high osmolarity response. Our analysis confirmed the role of each MAP2K in its proper signalling cascade with some peculiarities: abnormal hyphae with a reduced number of septa and thinner cell walls were observed in ?cpkk1 mutants, and a strong growth defect on solid media was evident in ?cpkk2 mutants when compared to the control. Virulence on chestnut was affected in both the ?cpkk1 and ?cpkk2 strains, which were also unable to complete developmental steps essential for mating. No alterations were reported in ?cpkk3 except under hyperosmotic conditions and in presence of fludioxonil. ?cpkk2 mutants, instead, showed higher sensitivity during growth in media containing the antibiotic G418 (Geneticin).
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