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Virology. 2001 Nov 10;290(1):164-71.

Exchange of three amino acids in the coat protein results in efficient whitefly transmission of a nontransmissible Abutilon mosaic virus isolate.

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  • 1Biologisches Institut, Lehrstuhl für Molekularbiologie und Virologie der Pflanzen, Universität Stuttgart, Pfaffenwaldring 57, D-70569 Stuttgart, Germany.


Geminiviruses are transmitted in a circulative manner by whiteflies, leafhoppers, or treehoppers. The whitefly species Bemisia tabaci (Genn.) is the vector for members of the genus Begomovirus. The closely related bipartite Central American begomoviruses Abutilon mosaic virus (AbMV), Sida golden mosaic virus originating from Costa Rica (SiGMV-CR), and Sida golden mosaic virus originating from Honduras (SiGMV-Hoyv) were used to study transmission by their insect vector. The AbMV isolate is defective in transmission, whereas the two Sida-infecting viruses are readily transmitted by B. tabaci. These three viruses are able to form pseudorecombinant viruses by exchange of genomic components. The pseudorecombinant virus SiGMV-Hoyv A/AbMV B was transmissible, whereas the reciprocal pseudorecombinant virus AbMV A/SiGMV-Hoyv B was not transmitted, indicating that DNA B is not involved in the transmission defect. However, the uptake of the pseudorecombinant virus AbMV A/SiGMV-Hoyv B was much better than AbMV itself, indicating that DNA B or DNA B gene products enhance uptake of viral DNA. Exchange of AbMV coat protein with that of SiGMV-CR resulted in a transmissible chimeric AbMV. Mutagenesis of the AbMV coat protein showed that the exchange of two amino acids, at positions 124 and 149, was sufficient to obtain a whitefly-transmissible AbMV mutant. However, when amino acid 174 was altered in addition to amino acids 124 and 149 AbMV was readily transmitted by B. tabaci. From this we conclude that it is not a concise motif, such as the amino acid triplet, aspartate-alanine-glycine (DAG), involved in aphid transmission of potyviruses, that determines transmissibility of begomoviruses by B. tabaci. Instead it is the composition of the coat protein domain from amino acid 123 to 149, as a minimal transmission domain, with the contribution of amino acids 149 to 174 for efficient transmission.

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