Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Texas A&M University, 2132 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-2132
The p19 protein (P19) of Tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) is a pathogenicity determinant with host-dependent effects on virus spread and symptom induction. In addition, results in this study confirm that Potato virus X-mediated delivery of P19 suppresses posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS). To study the relevance of this activity for TBSV biology, we evaluated whether TBSV activates virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) and if this process is suppressed by P19. TBSV vectors with the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene, either active or inactive for P19 expression, were inoculated onto GFP-transgenic Nicotiana bentha-miana plants. In the absence of P19 expression, VIGS was activated, as evidenced by the disappearance of GFP mRNA and green fluorescence. Coexpression of GFP and P19 from the TBSV vector suppressed VIGS, except in the newly emerging leaves. The suppressor activity required a central P19 region that is also known to be essential for host-dependent virus spread and symptom induction. Defective interfering RNAs (DIs) that contained the 3′ end of the GFP gene induced silencing very effectively. The concomitant DI-instigated reduction in P19 accumulation failed to suppress this process, analogous to the known P19 dosage effects for other biological activities. In conclusion, (i) TBSV and its DIs are very effective inducers of VIGS, (ii) P19 is a strong suppressor of PTGS, (iii) P19 is a moderate suppressor of VIGS, and (iv) the suppressor activity is influenced by genetic and dosage features that are also important for P19-associated pathogenesis.