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The p33 protein of Citrus tristeza virus affects viral pathogenicity by modulating a host immune response

Sun, Yong‐Duo, Folimonova, Svetlana Y.
Thenew phytologist 2019 v.221 no.4 pp. 2039-2053
Citrus, Citrus tristeza virus, Nicotiana benthamiana, gene targeting, immune response, mutants, open reading frames, pathogenicity, phloem, programmed cell death, proteins, tracheids, viruses
Accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a general plant basal defense strategy against viruses. In this study, we show that infection by Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) triggered ROS burst in Nicotiana benthamiana and in the natural citrus host, the extent of which was virus‐dose dependent. Using Agrobacterium‐mediated expression of CTV‐encoded proteins in N. benthamiana, we found that p33, a unique viral protein, contributed to the induction of ROS accumulation and programmed cell death. The role of p33 in CTV pathogenicity was assessed based on gene knockout and complementation in N. benthamiana. In the citrus–CTV pathosystem, deletion of the p33 open reading frame in a CTV variant resulted in a significant decrease in ROS production, compared to that of the wild type CTV, which correlated with invasion of the mutant virus into the immature xylem tracheid cells and abnormal differentiation of the vascular system. By contrast, the wild type CTV exhibited phloem‐limited distribution with a minor effect on the vasculature. We conclude that the p33 protein is a CTV effector that negatively affects virus pathogenicity and suggest that N. benthamiana recognizes p33 to activate the host immune response to restrict CTV into the phloem tissue and minimize the disease syndrome.