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Virology. 2005 Oct 10;341(1):47-58.

A bipartite Tobacco mosaic virus-defective RNA (dRNA) system to study the role of the N-terminal methyl transferase domain in cell-to-cell movement of dRNAs.

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Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida/IFAS, Citrus Research and Education Center, FL 33850, USA.


Plant viruses, in particular Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), are model systems to study RNA and protein trafficking in plants. Although TMV cell-to-cell transport controlled by the 30-kDa movement protein (MP) has been intensively studied, it was only recently demonstrated that the 126/183-kDa replicase proteins are also involved in cell-to-cell movement. Elucidating the role(s) of 126/183-kDa proteins in movement is complicated because these proteins have multiple functions associated with replication and gene expression. To overcome these difficulties we developed a TMV helper virus-defective RNA (dRNA) system to study the role of replicase protein sequences in dRNA cell-to-cell movement. Artificially constructed dRNAs lacking sequences encoding the helicase and polymerase domains of the replicase proteins and portions of the MP were viable in protoplasts and plants in the presence of helper virus. Expression of at least approximately 50% of the methyl transferase (MT) domain was required for efficient dRNA movement in Nicotiana benthamiana. dRNAs that encoded the N-terminal 64 replicase amino acids or lacked a translatable MT domain failed to move or moved poorly. TMV dRNAs expressing 258 amino acids of the replicase protein moved into all specialized non-vascular tissues, whereas dRNAs expressing replicase sequences beyond amino acid 258 were restricted to the epidermis and palisade mesophyll tissues. Furthermore, second-site mutations within the dRNA-encoded truncated replicase protein altered efficiency in dRNA cell-to-cell movement.

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