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Multiple Domains of the Tobacco mosaic virus p126 Protein Can Independently Suppress Local and Systemic RNA Silencing

May 2012 , Volume 25 , Number  5
Pages  648 - 657

Li-Ya Wang,1,2 Shih-Shun Lin,3 Ting-Hsuan Hung,1,4 Tsai-Kun Li,2 Nai-Chun Lin,4,5 and Tang-Long Shen1

1Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, College of Bioresources and Agriculture, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan; 2Graduate Institute of Microbiology, National Taiwan University Medical School, Taipei, Taiwan; and 3Institute of Biotechnology, 4Program in Plant Medicine, and 5Department of Agricultural Chemistry, College of Bioresources and Agriculture, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

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Accepted 11 January 2012.

Small RNA-mediated RNA silencing is a widespread antiviral mechanism in plants and other organisms. Many viruses encode suppressors of RNA silencing for counter-defense. The p126 protein encoded by Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) has been reported to be a suppressor of RNA silencing but the mechanism of its function remains unclear. This protein is unique among the known plant viral silencing suppressors because of its large size and multiple domains. Here, we report that the methyltransferase, helicase, and nonconserved region II (NONII) of p126 each has silencing-suppressor function. The silencing-suppression activities of methyltransferase and helicase can be uncoupled from their enzyme activities. Specific amino acids in NONII previously shown to be crucial for viral accumulation and symptom development are also crucial for silencing suppression. These results suggest that some viral proteins have evolved to possess modular structural domains that can independently interfere with host silencing, and that this may be an effective mechanism of increasing the robustness of a virus.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society