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Generation of an Attenuated, Cross-Protective Pepino mosaic virus Variant Through Alignment-Guided Mutagenesis of the Viral Capsid Protein

January 2015 , Volume 105 , Number  1
Pages  126 - 134

Godwill M. Chewachong, Sally A. Miller, Joshua J. Blakeslee, David M. Francis, T. Jack Morris, and Feng Qu

First, second, and sixth authors: Department of Plant Pathology, and third and fourth authors: Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, The Ohio State University, Wooster 44691; and fifth author: School of Biological Science, University of Nebraska, Lincoln 68583-0900.

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Accepted for publication 1 July 2014.

Mild variants of many viruses are able to protect infected plants from subsequent invasion by more severe variants of the same viruses through a process known as cross-protection. In the past, the cross-protective viral variants were commonly derived from mild field isolates that were sometimes genetically heterogeneous, providing variable levels of cross-protection. Here, we report a novel approach to rapidly generate cross-protective variants of the tomato-infecting Pepino mosaic virus (PepMV) independently of the availability of mild field isolates. Our approach sought to attenuate PepMV by mutating less conserved amino acid residues of the abundantly produced capsid protein (CP). These less-conserved amino acid residues were identified through multiple alignments of CPs of six potexviruses including PepMV, and were altered systematically to yield six PepMV mutants. These mutants were subsequently inoculated onto the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana, as well as tomato, to evaluate their accumulation levels, symptom severities, and cross-protection potentials. The mutant KD, in which the threonine (T) and alanine (A) residues at CP positions 66 and 67 were replaced with lysine (K) and aspartic acid (D), respectively, were found to accumulate to low levels in infected plants, cause very mild symptoms, and effectively protect both N. benthamiana and tomato against secondary infections by wild-type PepMV. These data suggest that our approach represents a simple, fast, and reliable way of generating attenuated viral variants capable of cross-protection.

© 2015 The American Phytopathological Society