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Mutations in the Antiviral RNAi Defense Pathway Modify Brome mosaic virus RNA Recombinant Profiles

January 2012 , Volume 25 , Number  1
Pages  97 - 106

Aleksandra Dzianott,1 Joanna Sztuba-Solińska,1 and Jozef J. Bujarski1,2

1Plant Molecular Biology Center and the Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb 60115, U.S.A.; 2Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, Noskowskiego 12/14, 61-704 Poznan, Poland

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Accepted 7 September 2011.

RNA interference (RNAi) mechanism targets viral RNA for degradation. To test whether RNAi gene products contributed to viral RNA recombination, a series of Arabidopsis thaliana RNAi-defective mutants were infected with Brome mosaic virus (BMV) RNAs that have been engineered to support crossovers within the RNA3 segment. Single-cross RNA3-RNA1, RNA3-RNA2, and RNA3-RNA3 recombinants accumulated in both the wild-type (wt) and all knock-out lines at comparable frequencies. However, a reduced accumulation of novel 3′ mosaic RNA3 recombinants was observed in ago1, dcl2, dcl4, and rdr6 lines but not in wt Col-0 or the dcl3 line. A BMV replicase mutant accumulated a low level of RNA3-RNA1 single-cross recombinants in Col-0 plants while, in a dcl2 dcl4 double mutant, the formation of both RNA3-RNA1 and mosaic recombinants was at a low level. A control infection in the cpr5-2 mutant, a more susceptible BMV Arabidopsis host, generated similar-to-Col-0 profiles of both single-cross and mosaic recombinants, indicating that recombinant profiles were, to some extent, independent of a viral replication rate. Also, the relative growth experiments revealed similar selection pressure for recombinants among the host lines. Thus, the altered recombinant RNA profiles have originated at the level of recombinant formation rather than because of altered selection. In conclusion, the viral replicase and the host RNAi gene products contribute in distinct ways to BMV RNA recombination. Our studies reveal that the antiviral RNAi mechanisms are utilized by plant RNA viruses to increase their variability, reminiscent of phenomena previously demonstrated in fungi.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society