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J Virol. 2004 Sep;78(17):9487-98.

Differential roles of AC2 and AC4 of cassava geminiviruses in mediating synergism and suppression of posttranscriptional gene silencing.

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  • 1International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, Missouri 63132, USA.


Posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants is a natural defense mechanism against virus infection. In mixed infections, virus synergism is proposed to result from suppression of the host defense mechanism by the viruses. Synergistic severe mosaic disease caused by simultaneous infection with isolates of the Cameroon strain of African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV-[CM]) and East African cassava mosaic Cameroon virus (EACMCV) in cassava and tobacco is characterized by a dramatic increase in symptom severity and a severalfold increase in viral-DNA accumulation by both viruses compared to that in singly infected plants. Here, we report that synergism between ACMV-[CM] and EACMCV is a two-way process, as the presence of the DNA-A component of ACMV-[CM] or EACMCV in trans enhanced the accumulation of viral DNA of EACMCV and ACMV-[CM], respectively, in tobacco BY-2 protoplasts. Furthermore, transient expression of ACMV-[CM] AC4 driven by the Cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter (p35S-AC4) enhanced EACMCV DNA accumulation by approximately 8-fold in protoplasts, while p35S-AC2 of EACMCV enhanced ACMV-[CM] DNA accumulation, also by approximately 8-fold. An Agrobacterium-based leaf infiltration assay determined that ACMV-[CM] AC4 and EACMCV AC2, the putative synergistic genes, were able to suppress PTGS induced by green fluorescent protein (GFP) and eliminated the short interfering RNAs associated with PTGS, with a correlated increase in GFP mRNA accumulation. In addition, we have identified AC4 of Sri Lankan cassava mosaic virus and AC2 of Indian cassava mosaic virus as suppressors of PTGS, indicating that geminiviruses evolved differently in regard to interaction with the host. The specific and different roles played by these AC2 and AC4 proteins of cassava geminiviruses in regulating anti-PTGS activity and their relation to synergism are discussed.

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