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Restoration of Wild-Type Virus by Double Recombination of Tombusvirus Mutants with a Host Transgene

February 1999 , Volume 12 , Number  2
Pages  153 - 162

Marise Borja , 1 Teresa Rubio , 1 Herman B. Scholthof , 2 and Andrew O. Jackson 1

1Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley 94720, U.S.A.; 2Department of Plant Pathology, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843, U.S.A.

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Accepted 8 October 1998.

Nicotiana benthamiana plants transformed with the coat protein gene of tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) failed to elicit effective virus resistance when inoculated with wild-type virus. Subsequently, R1 and R2 progeny from 13 transgenic lines were inoculated with a TBSV mutant containing a defective coat protein gene. Mild symptoms typical of those elicited in nontransformed plants infected with the TBSV mutant initially appeared. However, within 2 to 4 weeks, up to 20% of the transgenic plants sporadically began to develop the lethal syndrome characteristic of wild-type virus infections. RNA hybridization and immunoblot analyses of these plants and nontransformed N. benthamiana inoculated with virus from the transgenic lines indicated that wild-type virus had been regenerated by a double recombination event between the defective virus and the coat protein transgene. Similar results were obtained with a TBSV deletion mutant containing a nucleotide sequence marker, and with a chimeric cucumber necrosis virus (CNV) containing the defective TBSV coat protein gene. In both cases, purified virions contained wild-type TBSV RNA or CNV chimeric RNA derived by recombination with the transgenic coat protein mRNA. These results thus demonstrate that recombinant tombusviruses can arise frequently from viral genes expressed in transgenic plants.

© 1999 The American Phytopathological Society