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Viruses. 2013 Sep 9;5(9):2153-68. doi: 10.3390/v5092153.

Stability and fitness impact of the visually discernible Rosea1 marker in the Tobacco etch virus genome.

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Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas-Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Ingeniero Fausto Elio s/n, 46022 València, Spain.


Antirrhinum majus Rosea1 (Ros1) is an MYB-related transcription factor that induces anthocyanin biosynthesis in plant tissues, and has been shown to be suitable for visual tracking of virus infection in plants. However, activation of anthocyanin biosynthesis has far reaching effects on plant physiology and could consequently have negative effects on viral replication. Therefore, viruses carrying the Ros1 marker might have a low fitness and consequently rapidly lose the marker. To compare the stability of the Ros1 marker, we generated Tobacco etch virus (TEV) based constructs containing either Ros1 or the enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) between the NIb and CP cistrons (TEV-Ros1 and TEV-eGFP, respectively). We measured the within-host competitive fitness of both viruses by direct competitions with a common competitor during infection of Nicotiana tabacum. The fitness of TEV-Ros1 was significantly lower than that of TEV-eGFP, and both recombinant viruses had a significantly lower fitness than the wild-type virus. Nevertheless, after seven weeks of infection in N. tabacum, similar levels of marker gene instability where found for both viruses. Despite lower fitness of the marked virus, Ros1 is therefore a viable alternative marker for tracking viral infection in plants.

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