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EMBO J. Apr 1989; 8(4): 1023–1032.
PMCID: PMC400910

Maize streak virus genes essential for systemic spread and symptom development


The entire genome of single component geminiviruses such as maize streak virus (MSV) consists of a single-stranded circular DNA of ~2.7 kb. Although this size is sufficient to encode only three average sized proteins, the virus is capable of causing severe disease of many monocots with symptoms of chlorosis and stunting. We have identified viral gene functions essential for systemic spread and symptom development during MSV infection. Deletions and gene replacement mutants were created by site-directed mutagenesis and insertion between flanking MSV or reporter gene sequences contained in Agrobacterium T-DNA derived vectors. Following Agrobacterium-mediated inoculation of maize seedlings, the mutated MSV DNAs were excised from these binary vectors by homologous recombination within the flanking sequences. Our analyses show that the capsid gene of MSV, while not required for replication, is essential for systemic spread and subsequent disease development. The `+' strand open reading frame (ORF) located immediately upstream from the capsid ORF and predicted to encode a 10.9 kd protein was also found to be dispensable for replication but essential for systemic spread. By this analysis, MSV sequences that support autonomous replication were localized to a 1.7 kb segment containing the two viral intergenic regions and two overlapping complementary `-' strand ORFs. Despite the inability of the gene replacement mutants to spread systemically, both inoculated and newly developed leaves displayed chlorotic patterns similar to the phenotype observed in certain developmental mutants of maize. The similarity of the MSV mutant phenotype to these developmental mutants is discussed.

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