Department of Plant Biology, Genetics Centre, SLU, PO Box 7080, S-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden, and Department of Applied Biology, PO Box 27, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
The upper noninoculated ‘sink’ leaves of the wild potato species, Solanum commersonii, were studied for distribution of Potato virus A (PVA) at an early stage of systemic infection. Viral RNA was detected by in situ hybridization, and five viral proteins were localized using immunohistochemical staining in leaf sections. Initial systemic infection foci were found at the vicinity of major and minor veins. In these infection foci, the viral coat protein, cylindrical inclusion protein, and helper component-proteinase colocalized with viral RNA in parenchyma and mesophyll cells, but none of these were detected in companion cells (CC). In contrast, VPg, which is the N-proximal half of the NIa protein (separated from the C-terminal proteinase domain, NIapro, by an autocatalytic cleavage) and acts as a viral genome-linked protein, was detected in CC in the infection foci, but only at an early stage of virus unloading. Outside the infection foci, conspicuous signals for VPg were readily and exclusively detected in CC of many veins in all vein classes in the absence of signals for NIapro, other viral proteins, and viral RNA. Taken together, our data indicate that both major and minor veins may unload PVA in the sink leaves of potato. The data suggest that VPg is translocated from inoculated source leaves to the sink leaves, where it accumulates in CC at an early stage of systemic infection. These findings suggest that VPg may be a ‘phloem protein’ that specifically acts in CC in the sink leaves to facilitate virus unloading.