The accumulation of Tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) defective interfering RNAs (DIs) has been observed in several species of plants, but the involvement of host-specific processes and the functional role of DIs are still poorly understood. In this study, the accumulation of DIs was compared after several passages of TBSV through Nicotiana benthamiana and pepper (Capsicum annuum). As anticipated, passages of wild-type TBSV through N. benthamiana resulted in the accumulation of significant levels of TBSV DIs, which caused symptom attenuation and prevented the plants from lethal necrosis. On the contrary, TBSV infection of pepper plants caused severe local and systemic chlorosis, but continuous virus passages did not result in detectable levels of DIs accumulation. In addition, the inoculation of pepper plants with a mixture of helper virus and DI either from in vitro generated transcripts or from infected N. benthamiana did not yield DI in upper pepper leaves. Our cumulative results suggest that complex host-specific determinants play an important role in TBSV DI generation and their subsequent maintenance and accumulation.
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