Transgenic citrus plants expressing the citrus tristeza virus p23 protein exhibit viral-like symptoms
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AutorGhorbel,Riadh; Lopez,Carmelo; Fagoaga,Carmen; Moreno,Pedro; Navarro,Luis; Flores,Ricardo; Pena,Leandro
The 23 kDa protein (p23) coded by the 3'-terminal gene of Citrus tristeza virus (CTV), a member of the genus Closterovirus with the largest genome among plant RNA viruses, is an RNA-binding protein that contains a motif rich in cysteine and histidine residues in the core of a putative zinc-finger domain. On this basis, a regulatory role for CTV replication or gene expression has been suggested for p23. To explore whether over-expression of this protein in transgenic plants could affect the normal CTV infection process, transgenic Mexican lime plants were generated carrying the p23 transgene, or a truncated version thereof, under the control of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter. Constitutive expression of p23 induced phenotypic aberrations that resembled symptoms incited by CTV in non-transgenic lime plants, whereas transgenic plants expressing the p23 truncated version were normal. The onset of CTV-like symptoms in p23 transgenic plants was associated with the expression of p23, and its accumulation level paralleled the intensity of the symptoms. This demonstrates that p23 is involved in symptom development and that it most likely plays a key role in CTV pathogenesis. This is the first case in which a protein encoded by a woody plant-infecting RNA virus has been identified as being directly involved in pathogenesis in its natural host. This finding also delimits a small region of the large CTV genome for the future mapping of specific pathogenic determinants.