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Virus Recovery Is Induced in Brome mosaic virus p2 Transgenic Plants Showing Synchronous Complementation and RNA-2-Specific Silencing

March 2000 , Volume 13 , Number  3
Pages  247 - 258

Lakshminarayan M. Iyer and Timothy C. Hall

Institute of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843-3155, U.S.A.

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Accepted 3 December 1999.

Nicotiana benthamiana plants expressing Brome mosaic virus (BMV) p2 protein complemented replication of RNAs1+3 but, surprisingly, supported little or no replication of RNA-2. Despite this, the p2 transgenic plants were able to support systemic migration of RNAs-1 and -3. Kinetic analyses showed identical degradation rates for RNAs-2 and -3, greatly detracting from the concept of an induction of an RNA-2-specific degradation system. Deletion analysis identified a 200-nucleotide sequence that may contribute to silencing in a context-specific manner. When (R)1 progeny of a severely silencing p2 transgenic line were tested for virus resistance, three different classes of reactions were observed. In class 1 and class 3 plants, the virus moved systemically and showed various extents of RNA-2 silencing. However, in class 2 plants, there was a stochastic onset of post-transcriptional silencing in the systemic leaves that was reminiscent of virus recovery. Plants showing recovery tended to have a greater number of transgene loci than did those exhibiting componentspecific silencing. The induction of silencing did not appear to be dependent solely on the combined steady state levels of the transgene and viral RNA. Some plants transformed with a p2 frameshift construct showed a complete silencing phenotype, but none showed RNA-2-specific silencing. While the relationship between the two types of silencing remains unclear, we speculate that our observations reflect early events in the induction of virus recovery.

Additional keywords: gene silencing, PTGS, RNA degradation, virus-induced gene silencing, virus replication.

© 2000 The American Phytopathological Society