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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Nov 2;101(44):15742-7. Epub 2004 Oct 25.

Three distinct suppressors of RNA silencing encoded by a 20-kb viral RNA genome.

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  • 1Center for Plant Cell Biology, Institute for Integrative Genome Biology, and Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.

Abstract

Viral infection in both plant and invertebrate hosts requires a virus-encoded function to block the RNA silencing antiviral defense. Here, we report the identification and characterization of three distinct suppressors of RNA silencing encoded by the approximately 20-kb plus-strand RNA genome of citrus tristeza virus (CTV). When introduced by genetic crosses into plants carrying a silencing transgene, both p20 and p23, but not coat protein (CP), restored expression of the transgene. Although none of the CTV proteins prevented DNA methylation of the transgene, export of the silencing signal (capable of mediating intercellular silencing spread) was detected only from the F(1) plants expressing p23 and not from the CP- or p20-expressing F(1) plants, demonstrating suppression of intercellular silencing by CP and p20 but not by p23. Thus, intracellular and intercellular silencing are each targeted by a CTV protein, whereas the third, p20, inhibits silencing at both levels. Notably, CP suppresses intercellular silencing without interfering with intracellular silencing. The novel property of CP suggests a mechanism distinct to p20 and all of the other viral suppressors known to interfere with intercellular silencing and that this class of viral suppressors may not be consistently identified by Agrobacterium coinfiltration because it also induces RNA silencing against the infiltrated suppressor transgene. Our analyses reveal a sophisticated viral counter-defense strategy that targets the silencing antiviral pathway at multiple steps and may be essential for protecting CTV with such a large RNA genome from antiviral silencing in the perennial tree host.

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