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Mol Plant Pathol. 2011 Aug;12(6):595-605. doi: 10.1111/j.1364-3703.2010.00696.x. Epub 2011 Jan 17.

Satellite RNA reduces expression of the 2b suppressor protein resulting in the attenuation of symptoms caused by Cucumber mosaic virus infection.

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State Key Laboratory of Plant Genomics and National Center for Plant Gene Research (Beijing), Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China.


Satellite RNAs (satRNAs) depend on cognate helper viruses for replication, encapsidation, movement and transmission. Many satRNAs with different symptom modulation effects have been reported. The pathogenicity of satRNAs is thought to be the result of a direct interaction among the satRNA, helper viruses and host factors by unknown mechanisms. To understand the effect of satRNA of Cucumber mosaic virus (a severe field ShanDong strain, SD-CMV) on pathogenicity, and the possible involvement of host RNA silencing pathways in pathogenicity, we constructed biologically active CMV cDNA clones and a CMV-Δ2b mutant lacking the open reading frame of 2b, a silencing suppressor protein, in order to infect Nicotiana benthamiana and Arabidopsis with or without SD-satRNA. We found that SD-satRNA reduced the accumulation of the 2b protein and its coding RNA4A and attenuated the yellowing caused by SD-CMV infection. Small RNA analysis indicated that the 2b protein interfered with RNA silencing, specifically in the synthesis of CMV RNA3-derived small interfering RNAs (R3-siRNAs). The accumulation of R3-siRNAs in CMV-Δ2b infection was reduced in the presence of satRNA, for which greater accumulation of satRNA-derived siRNAs (satsiRNAs) was detected. Our results suggest that abundant SD-satRNA serving as target for RNA silencing may play a role in protecting helper CMV RNA, especially, subgenomic RNA4, from being targeted by RNA silencing. This compensates for the increase in RNA silencing resulting from the reduction in expression of the 2b suppressor in the presence of satRNA. Our data provide evidence that a plant silencing mechanism is involved in the pathogenicity of satRNA.

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