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Plant J. 2003 Aug;35(3):386-92.

Systemic movement of a tobamovirus requires host cell pectin methylesterase.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5215, USA.


Systemic movement of plant viruses through the host vasculature, one of the central events of the infection process, is essential for maximal viral accumulation and development of disease symptoms. The host plant proteins involved in this transport, however, remain unknown. Here, we examined whether or not pectin methylesterase (PME), one of the few cellular proteins known to be involved in local, cell-to-cell movement of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), is also required for the systemic spread of viral infection through the plant vascular system. In a reverse genetics approach, PME levels were reduced in tobacco plants using antisense suppression. The resulting PME antisense plants displayed a significant degree of PME suppression in their vascular tissues but retained the wild-type pattern of phloem loading and unloading of a fluorescent solute. Systemic transport of TMV in these plants, however, was substantially delayed as compared to the wild-type tobacco, suggesting a role for PME in TMV systemic infection. Our analysis of virus distribution in the PME antisense plants suggested that TMV systemic movement may be a polar process in which the virions enter and exit the vascular system by two different mechanisms, and it is the viral exit out of the vascular system that involves PME.

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