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Agroinoculation of Citrus tristeza virus Causes Systemic Infection and Symptoms in the Presumed Nonhost Nicotiana benthamiana

October 2011 , Volume 24 , Number  10
Pages  1,119 - 1,131

Silvia Ambrós,1 Choaa El-Mohtar,2 Susana Ruiz-Ruiz,1 Leandro Peña,1 José Guerri,1 William O. Dawson,2 and Pedro Moreno1

1Centro de Protección Vegetal y Biotecnología, IVIA, Moncada, Valencia-46113, Spain; 2University of Florida, C.R.E.C., Lake Alfred, Florida-33850-2299, U.S.A.

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Accepted 25 June 2011.

Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) naturally infects only some citrus species and relatives and within these it only invades phloem tissues. Failure to agroinfect citrus plants and the lack of an experimental herbaceous host hindered development of a workable genetic system. A full-genome cDNA of CTV isolate T36 was cloned in binary plasmids and was used to agroinfiltrate Nicotiana benthamiana leaves, with or without coinfiltration with plasmids expressing different silencing-suppressor proteins. A time course analysis in agroinfiltrated leaves indicated that CTV accumulates and moves cell-to-cell for at least three weeks postinoculation (wpi), and then, it moves systemically and infects the upper leaves with symptom expression. Silencing suppressors expedited systemic infection and often increased infectivity. In systemically infected Nicotiana benthamiana plants, CTV invaded first the phloem, but after 7 wpi, it was also found in other tissues and reached a high viral titer in upper leaves, thus allowing efficient transmission to citrus by stem-slash inoculation. Infected citrus plants showed the symptoms, virion morphology, and phloem restriction characteristic of the wild T36 isolate. Therefore, agroinfiltration of Nicotiana benthamiana provided the first experimental herbaceous host for CTV and an easy and efficient genetic system for this closterovirus.

© 2011 The American Phytopathological Society