The requirement for the 17-kDa protein (P17) of Potato leafroll virus (PLRV) in virus movement was investigated in four plant species: potato (Solanum tuberosum), Physalis floridana, Nicotiana benthamiana, and N. clevelandii. Two PLRV P17 mutants were characterized, one that does not translate the P17 and another that expresses a P17 missing the first four amino acids. The P17 mutants were able to replicate and accumulate in agroinoculated leaves of potato and P. floridana, but they were unable to move into vascular tissues and initiate a systemic infection in these plants. In contrast, the P17 mutants were able to spread systemically from inoculated leaves in both Nicotiana spp., although the efficiency of infection was reduced relative to wild-type PLRV. Examination of virus distribution in N. benthamiana plants using tissue immunoblotting techniques revealed that the wild-type PLRV and P17 mutants followed a similar movement pathway out of the inoculated leaves. Virus first moved upward to the apical tissues and then downward. The P17 mutants, however, infected fewer phloem-associated cells, were slower than wild-type PLRV in moving out of the inoculated tissue and into apical tissues, and were unable to infect any mature leaves present on the plant at the time of inoculation.
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