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J Biotechnol. 2001 Apr 27;87(1):67-82.

Engineering zucchini yellow mosaic potyvirus as a non-pathogenic vector for expression of heterologous proteins in cucurbits.

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ViroGene Limited, Har-Hotzvim, P.O. Box 45010, 91045, Jerusalem, Israel.


Plant virus vectors provide an attractive biotechnological tool for the transient expression of foreign genes in whole plants. As yet there has been no use of recombinant viruses for the improvement of commercial crops. This is mainly because the viruses used to create vectors usually cause significant yield loss and can be transmitted in the field. A novel attenuated zucchini yellow mosaic potyvirus (AG) was used for the development of an environmentally safe non-pathogenic virus vector. The suitability of AG as an expression vector in plants was tested by analysis of two infectious viral constructs, each containing a distinct gene insertion site. Introduction of a foreign viral coat protein gene into AG genome between the P1 and HC-Pro genes, resulted in no expression in planta. In contrast, the same gene was stably expressed when inserted between NIb and CP genes, suggesting that this site is more suitable for a gene vector. Virus-mediated expression of reporter genes was observed in squash and cucumber leaves, stems, roots and edible fruit. Furthermore, AG stably expressed human interferon-alpha 2, an important human anti-viral drug, without affecting plant development and yield. Interferon biological activity was measured in cucumber and squash fruit. Together, these data corroborate a biotechnological utility of AG as a non-pathogenic vector for the expression of a foreign gene, as a benefit trait, in cucurbits and their edible fruit.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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