Department of Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40546 U.S.A.
Infection of Tabasco pepper by the tobacco etch virus (TEV) typically causes wilting associated with root necrosis. However, a strain of TEV, designated TEV nonwilting (TEV NW), is able to infect Tabasco pepper plants but does not cause wilting. In order to locate the genetic determinants responsible for the wilting response, a full-length cDNA clone of TEV NW from which infectious transcripts can be derived was made. A number of chimeric constructs were prepared by substituting cDNA fragments between TEV HAT (which causes wilting) and TEV NW clones. This approach was used to identify two wilting determinants in TEV HAT: one encompasses the 3′ one-third of the P3 coding region; the other spans the 3′ end of the CI, the 6-kDa protein, and the 5′ end of the VPg-NIa coding regions. Substitution of both these TEV NW fragments into TEV HAT resulted in infection but not wilting of Tabasco pepper, while the replacement of either of the fragments alone did not alter the wilting response. This indicates that both TEV NW regions contain determinants necessary but not sufficient to alter the wilting response and that both must be present in order to avoid the wilting response. There was no difference between the in vitro transcription-translation products derived from constructs containing these regions from TEV HAT and TEV NW.