Departamento de Genética Molecular de Plantas, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (CNB-CSIC), Campus Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain
Research performed on model herbaceous hosts has been useful to unravel the molecular mechanisms that control viral infections. The most common Plum pox virus (PPV) strains are able to infect Nicotiana species as well as Chenopodium and Arabidopsis species. However, isolates belonging to strain C (PPV-C) that have been adapted to Nicotiana spp. are not infectious either in Chenopodium foetidum or in Arabidopsis thaliana. In order to determine the mechanism underlying this interesting host-specific behavior, we have constructed chimerical clones derived from Nicotiana-adapted PPV isolates from the D and C strains, which differ in their capacity to infect A. thaliana and C. foetidum. With this approach, we have identified the nuclear inclusion a protein (VPg+Pro) as the major pathogenicity determinant that conditions resistance in the presence of additional secondary determinants, different for each host. Genome-linked viral protein (VPg) mutations similar to those involved in the breakdown of eIF4E-mediated resistance to other potyviruses allow some PPV chimeras to infect A. thaliana. These results point to defective interactions between a translation initiation factor and the viral VPg as the most probable cause of host-specific incompatibility, in which other viral factors also participate, and suggest that complex interactions between multiple viral proteins and translation initiation factors not only define resistance to potyviruses in particular varieties of susceptible hosts but also contribute to establish nonhost resistance.