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J Virol. 2008 Apr;82(8):4064-71. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02438-07. Epub 2008 Feb 13.

Tobacco rattle virus 16-kilodalton protein encodes a suppressor of RNA silencing that allows transient viral entry in meristems.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EA, United Kingdom.


RNA silencing is a host defense mechanism that limits the accumulation and spread of viruses in infected plants. Correspondingly, plant viruses encode suppressors of silencing. In the positive-strand RNA virus Tobacco rattle virus (TRV), the suppressor of silencing is a 16-kDa (16K) protein encoded by RNA1. The suppressor action of the 16K protein is transient and weaker than that of the P19 suppressor, encoded by tomato bushy stunt virus. Mutant TRV that does not produce its suppressor, unlike other suppressor-defective viruses, is competent to accumulate and spread systemically in the infected plant. However, this mutant virus does not exhibit the transient invasion of the meristem that is characteristic of the wild-type virus. Based on this analysis, we propose that the 16K suppressor of silencing allows TRV to transiently invade the meristem. Our data are consistent with a mechanism of long-term meristem virus exclusion that is dependent on a transient invasion of the meristem early in the infection cycle. This novel mechanism of meristem exclusion may be associated with the phenomenon of recovery in virus-infected plants in which upper leaves have little or no virus and are immune to secondary infection by the same virus.

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