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Analysis of the Involvement of an Inducible Arabidopsis RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase in Antiviral Defense

March 2003 , Volume 16 , Number  3
Pages  206 - 216

Diqiu Yu , 1 Baofang Fan , 1 , 2 Stuart A. MacFarlane , 3 and Zhixiang Chen 1 , 2

1Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho 83844-3052; 2Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906-1155; 3Gene Expression Program, Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, U.K.

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Accepted 21 November 2002.

RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRPs) have been implicated in posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS) and antiviral defense. An Arabidopsis RdRP (SDE1/SGS2) has been previously shown to be required for transgene-induced PTGS but has no general role in antiviral defense. On the other hand, we have recently shown that transgenic tobacco deficient in an inducible RdRP (NtRdRP1) activity became more susceptible to both Tobacco mosaic virus and Potato virus X. Thus, different RdRPs may have distinct roles in closely related PTGS and antiviral defense. In the present study, we analyzed roles of a newly identified Arabidopsis RdRP gene (AtRdRP1) in plant antiviral defense. AtRdRP1 encodes an RdRP closely related structurally to NtRdRP1 and is also induced by salicylic acid treatment and virus infection. A T-DNA insertion mutant for AtRdRP1 has been isolated and analyzed for possible alterations in response to viral infection. When infected by a to-bamovirus and a tobravirus, the knockout mutant accumulated higher and more persistent levels of viral RNAs in both the lower, inoculated and in upper, systemically infected leaves than did wild-type plants. These results suggest that the inducible AtRdRP1 is the Arabidopsis ortholog of NtRdRP1 and plays a role in antiviral defense. Examination of short viral RNAs and silencing studies using a viral vector harboring an endogenous plant gene suggest that, while not required for virus-induced PTGS, AtRdRP1 can apparently promote turnover of viral RNAs in infected plants.

© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society