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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Nov 21;97(24):13401-6.

Virus-encoded suppressor of posttranscriptional gene silencing targets a maintenance step in the silencing pathway.

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  • 1Institute of Biological Chemistry, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6340, USA.


Certain plant viruses encode suppressors of posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS), an adaptive antiviral defense response that limits virus replication and spread. The tobacco etch potyvirus protein, helper component-proteinase (HC-Pro), suppresses PTGS of silenced transgenes. The effect of HC-Pro on different steps of the silencing pathway was analyzed by using both transient Agrobacterium tumefaciens-based delivery and transgenic systems. HC-Pro inactivated PTGS in plants containing a preexisting silenced beta-glucuronidase (GUS) transgene. PTGS in this system was associated with both small RNA molecules (21-26 nt) corresponding to the 3' proximal region of the transcribed GUS sequence and cytosine methylation of specific sites near the 3' end of the GUS transgene. Introduction of HC-Pro into these plants resulted in loss of PTGS, loss of small RNAs, and partial loss of methylation. These results suggest that HC-Pro targets a PTGS maintenance (as opposed to an initiation or signaling) component at a point that affects accumulation of small RNAs and methylation of genomic DNA.

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