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  1. Superinfection exclusion (SIE) is an antagonistic interaction between identical or closely related viruses in host cells. Previous studies by us and others led to the hypothesis that SIE was elicited by one or more proteins encoded in the genomes of primary viruses. Here, we tested this hypothesis using Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV), a member of the genus Potyvirus of the family Potyviridae, with significant economic consequences. To this end, individual TuMV-encoded proteins were transiently expressed in the cells of Nicotiana benthamiana leaves, followed by challenging them with a modified TuMV expressing the green fluorescent protein (TuMV-GFP). Three days after TuMV-GFP delivery, these cells were examined for the replication-dependent expression of GFP. Cells expressing TuMV P1, HC-Pro, 6K1, CI, 6K2, NIa-VPg, NIb, or CP proteins permitted an efficient expression of GFP, suggesting that these proteins failed to block the replication of a superinfecting TuMV-GFP. By contrast, N. benthamiana cells expressing TuMV P3 or NIa-Pro did not express visible GFP fluorescence, suggesting that both of them could elicit potent SIE against TuMV-GFP. The SIE elicitor activity of P3 and NIa-Pro was further confirmed by their heterologous expression from a different potyvirus, potato virus A (PVA). Plants systemically infected with PVA variants expressing TuMV P3 or NIa-Pro blocked subsequent infection by TuMV-GFP. A +1-frameshift mutation in P3 and NIa-Pro cistrons facilitated superinfection by TuMV-GFP, suggesting that the P3 and NIa-Pro proteins, but not the RNA, are involved in SIE activity. Additionally, deletion mutagenesis identified P3 amino acids 3 to 200 of 352 and NIa-Pro amino acids 3 to 40 and 181 to 242 of 242 as essential for SIE elicitation. Collectively, our study demonstrates that TuMV encodes two spatially separated proteins that act independently to exert SIE on superinfecting TuMV. These results lay the foundation for further mechanistic interrogations of SIE in this virus.

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  2. Pagán, Israel (Ed.)

    Viruses with single-stranded, positive-sense (+) RNA genomes incur high numbers of errors during replication, thereby creating diversified genome populations from which new, better adapted viral variants can emerge. However, a definitive error rate is known for a relatively few (+) RNA plant viruses, due to challenges to account for perturbations caused by natural selection and/or experimental set-ups. To address these challenges, we developed a new approach that exclusively profiled errors in the (-)-strand replication intermediates of turnip crinkle virus (TCV), in singly infected cells. A series of controls and safeguards were devised to ensure errors inherent to the experimental process were accounted for. This approach permitted the estimation of a TCV error rate of 8.47 X 10−5substitution per nucleotide site per cell infection. Importantly, the characteristic error distribution pattern among the 50 copies of 2,363-base-pair cDNA fragments predicted that nearly all TCV (-) strands were products of one replication cycle per cell. Furthermore, some of the errors probably elevated error frequencies by lowering the fidelity of TCV RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, and/or permitting occasional re-replication of progeny genomes. In summary, by profiling errors in TCV (-)-strand intermediates incurred during replication in single cells, this study provided strong support for a stamping machine mode of replication employed by a (+) RNA virus.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 14, 2024
  3. Wang, Aiming (Ed.)

    Viruses are constantly subject to natural selection to enrich beneficial mutations and weed out deleterious ones. However, it remains unresolved as to how the phenotypic gains or losses brought about by these mutations cause the viral genomes carrying the very mutations to become more or less numerous. Previous investigations by us and others suggest that viruses with plus strand (+) RNA genomes may compel such selection by bottlenecking the replicating genome copies in each cell to low single digits. Nevertheless, it is unclear if similarly stringent reproductive bottlenecks also occur in cells invaded by DNA viruses. Here we investigated whether tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), a small virus with a single-stranded DNA genome, underwent population bottlenecking in cells of its host plants. We engineered a TYLCV genome to produce two replicons that express green fluorescent protein and mCherry, respectively, in a replication-dependent manner. We found that among the cells entered by both replicons, less than 65% replicated both, whereas at least 35% replicated either of them alone. Further probability computation concluded that replication in an average cell was unlikely to have been initiated with more than three replicon genome copies. Furthermore, sequential inoculations unveiled strong mutual exclusions of these two replicons at the intracellular level. In conclusion, the intracellular population of the small DNA virus TYLCV is actively bottlenecked, and such bottlenecking may be a virus-encoded, evolutionarily conserved trait that assures timely selection of new mutations emerging through error-prone replication.

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  4. Abstract Background

    Soybean gene functions cannot be easily interrogated through transgenic disruption (knock-out) of genes-of-interest, or transgenic overexpression of proteins-of-interest, because soybean transformation is time-consuming and technically challenging. An attractive alternative is to administer transient gene silencing or overexpression with a plant virus-based vector. However, existing virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) and/or overexpression vectors suitable for soybean have various drawbacks that hinder their widespread adoption.


    We describe the development of a new vector based on cowpea severe mosaic virus (CPSMV), a plus-strand RNA virus with its genome divided into two RNA segments, RNA1 and RNA2. This vector, designated FZ, incorporates a cloning site in the RNA2 cDNA, permitting insertion of nonviral sequences. When paired with an optimized RNA1 construct, FZ readily infects bothNicotiana benthamianaand soybean. As a result, FZ constructs destined for soybean can be first delivered toN. benthamianain order to propagate the modified viruses to high titers. FZ-based silencing constructs induced robust silencing of phytoene desaturase genes inN. benthamiana, multiple soybean accessions, and cowpea. Meanwhile, FZ supported systemic expression of fluorescent proteins mNeonGreen and mCherry inN. benthamianaand soybean. Finally, FZ-mediated expression of the Arabidopsis transcription factor MYB75 causedN. benthamianato bear brown leaves and purple, twisted flowers, indicating that MYB75 retained the function of activating anthocyanin synthesis pathways in a different plant.


    The new CPSMV-derived FZ vector provides a convenient and versatile soybean functional genomics tool that is expected to accelerate the characterization of soybean genes controlling crucial productivity traits.

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  5. Natural selection acts on cellular organisms by ensuring the genes responsible for an advantageous phenotype consistently reap the phenotypic advantage. This is possible because reproductive cells of these organisms are almost always haploid, separating the beneficial gene from its rival allele at every generation. How natural selection acts on plus-strand RNA viruses is unclear because these viruses frequently load host cells with numerous genome copies and replicate thousands of progeny genomes in each cell. Recent studies suggest that these viruses encode the Bottleneck, Isolate, Amplify, Select (BIAS) mechanism that blocks all but a few viral genome copies from replication, thus creating the environment in which the bottleneck-escaping viral genome copies are isolated from each other, allowing natural selection to reward beneficial mutations and purge lethal errors. This BIAS mechanism also blocks the genomes of highly homologous superinfecting viruses, thus explaining cellular-level superinfection exclusion. 
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  6. Geminiviruses possess single-stranded, circular DNA genomes and control the transcription of their late genes, including BV1 of many bipartite begomoviruses, through transcriptional activation by the early expressing AC2 protein. DNA binding by AC2 is not sequence-specific; hence, the specificity of AC2 activation is thought to be conferred by plant transcription factors (TFs) recruited by AC2 in infected cells. However, the exact TFs AC2 recruits are not known for most viruses. Here, we report a systematic examination of the BV1 promoter (PBV1) of the mungbean yellow mosaic virus (MYMV) for conserved promoter motifs. We found that MYMV PBV1 contains three abscisic acid (ABA)-responsive elements (ABREs) within its first 70 nucleotides. Deleting these ABREs, or mutating them all via site-directed mutagenesis, abolished the capacity of PBV1 to respond to AC2-mediated transcriptional activation. Furthermore, ABRE and other related ABA-responsive elements were prevalent in more than a dozen Old World begomoviruses we inspected. Together, these findings suggest that ABA-responsive TFs may be recruited by AC2 to BV1 promoters of these viruses to confer specificity to AC2 activation. These observations are expected to guide the search for the actual TF(s), furthering our understanding of the mechanisms of AC2 action. 
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  7. RNA secondary structures play diverse roles in positive-sense (+) RNA virus infections, but those located with the replication protein coding sequence can be difficult to investigate. Structures that regulate the translation of replication proteins pose particular challenges, as their potential involvement in post-translational steps cannot be easily discerned independent of their roles in regulating translation. In the current study, we attempted to overcome these difficulties by providing viral replication proteins in trans. Specifically, we modified the plant-infecting turnip crinkle virus (TCV) into variants that are unable to translate one (p88) or both (p28 and p88) replication proteins, and complemented their replication with the corresponding replication protein(s) produced from separate, non-replicating constructs. This approach permitted us to re-examine the p28/p88 coding region for potential RNA elements needed for TCV replication. We found that, while more than a third of the p88 coding sequence could be deleted without substantially affecting viral RNA levels, two relatively small regions, known as RSE and IRE, were essential for robust accumulation of TCV genomic RNA, but not subgenomic RNAs. In particular, the RSE element, found previously to be required for regulating the translational read-through of p28 stop codon to produce p88, contained sub-elements needed for efficient replication of the TCV genome. Application of this new approach in other viruses could reveal novel RNA secondary structures vital for viral multiplication. 
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  8. We recently reported that the p28 auxiliary replication protein encoded by turnip crinkle virus (TCV) is also responsible for eliciting superinfection exclusion (SIE) against superinfecting TCV. However, it remains unresolved whether the replication function of p28 could be separated from its ability to elicit SIE. Here, we report the identification of two single amino acid mutations that decouple these two functions. Using an Agrobacterium infiltration-based delivery system, we transiently expressed a series of p28 deletion and point mutants, and tested their ability to elicit SIE against a cointroduced TCV replicon. We found that substituting alanine (A) for valine (V) and phenylalanine (F) at p28 positions 181 and 182, respectively, modestly compromised SIE in transiently expressed p28 derivatives. Upon incorporation into TCV replicons, V181A and F182A decoupled TCV replication and SIE diametrically. Although V181A impaired SIE without detectably compromising replication, F182A abolished TCV replication but had no effect on SIE once the replication of the defective replicon was restored through complementation. Both mutations diminished accumulation of p28 protein, suggesting that p28 must reach a concentration threshold in order to elicit a strong SIE. Importantly, the severe reduction of F182A protein levels correlated with a dramatic loss in the number of intracellular p28 foci formed by p28–p28 interactions. Together, these findings not only decouple the replication and SIE functions of p28 but also unveil a concentration dependence for p28 coalescence and SIE elicitation. These data further highlight the role of p28 multimerization in driving the exclusion of secondary TCV infections.

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  9. Simon, Anne E. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) of virus origin accumulate in cells infected by many positive-strand (+) RNA viruses to bolster viral infectivity. Their biogenesis mostly utilizes exoribonucleases of host cells that degrade viral genomic or subgenomic RNAs in the 5′-to-3′ direction until being stalled by well-defined RNA structures. Here, we report a viral lncRNA that is produced by a novel replication-dependent mechanism. This lncRNA corresponds to the last 283 nucleotides of the turnip crinkle virus (TCV) genome and hence is designated tiny TCV subgenomic RNA (ttsgR). ttsgR accumulated to high levels in TCV-infected Nicotiana benthamiana cells when the TCV-encoded RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), also known as p88, was overexpressed. Both (+) and (−) strand forms of ttsgR were produced in a manner dependent on the RdRp functionality. Strikingly, templates as short as ttsgR itself were sufficient to program ttsgR amplification, as long as the TCV-encoded replication proteins p28 and p88 were provided in trans . Consistent with its replicational origin, ttsgR accumulation required a 5′ terminal carmovirus consensus sequence (CCS), a sequence motif shared by genomic and subgenomic RNAs of many viruses phylogenetically related to TCV. More importantly, introducing a new CCS motif elsewhere in the TCV genome was alone sufficient to cause the emergence of another lncRNA. Finally, abolishing ttsgR by mutating its 5′ CCS gave rise to a TCV mutant that failed to compete with wild-type TCV in Arabidopsis . Collectively, our results unveil a replication-dependent mechanism for the biogenesis of viral lncRNAs, thus suggesting that multiple mechanisms, individually or in combination, may be responsible for viral lncRNA production. IMPORTANCE Many positive-strand (+) RNA viruses produce long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) during the process of cellular infections and mobilize these lncRNAs to counteract antiviral defenses, as well as coordinate the translation of viral proteins. Most viral lncRNAs arise from 5′-to-3′ degradation of longer viral RNAs being stalled at stable secondary structures. Here, we report a viral lncRNA that is produced by the replication machinery of turnip crinkle virus (TCV). This lncRNA, designated ttsgR, shares the terminal characteristics with TCV genomic and subgenomic RNAs and overaccumulates in the presence of moderately overexpressed TCV RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). Furthermore, templates that are of similar sizes as ttsgR are readily replicated by TCV replication proteins (p28 and RdRp) provided from nonviral sources. In summary, this study establishes an approach for uncovering low abundance viral lncRNAs, and characterizes a replicating TCV lncRNA. Similar investigations on human-pathogenic (+) RNA viruses could yield novel therapeutic targets. 
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